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Government Reform (Savings Programme)

Volume 585: debated on Wednesday 10 September 2014

4. What progress he has made on his programme to achieve savings from greater efficiency in and reform of central Government. (905296)

On 10 June, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and I announced savings through efficiency reform of central Government of £14.3 billion for the last financial year, measured against a 2009-10 baseline. These savings include both recurring and non-recurring items, and include £5.4 billion from procurement and commercial savings, £3.3 billion in project savings and £4.7 billion from work force reform and pension savings.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that answer. Is he able to quantify the specific savings to the taxpayer from Government Departments and agencies now being required to share buildings, rather than having their own stand-alone premises?

We have got out of a huge number of properties. We have reduced our office estate by the equivalent of 26 times the size of Buckingham palace, raising £1.4 billion in capital receipts and saving £625 million in running costs. Our One Public Estate programme, which is working very closely with a number of local authorities, is saving even more money and releasing property for the private sector to create jobs and growth by local government, central Government and indeed the wider public sector co-locating, which both saves money and is more convenient for the public.

Cost-effectiveness is of course something that all of us should aim for, but does the Minister agree that in trying to achieve that it would be better if best practice was shared right across the United Kingdom, including Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland?

We try to promulgate good practice as best we can. We are, however, localists. We believe that the wider public sector—those who have responsibility and are accountable for the way in which the wider public sector operates—must be responsible for their own decisions. I have had very productive conversations with Ministers in the devolved Northern Ireland Government. There is much that we can learn from each other, and much that we can gain, as in the One Public Estate programme, from working together.

Why has the Cabinet Office increased spending on consultants and agency staff to over £50 million in the last year?

As the hon. Gentleman will know, the amount of money spent by the Government on consultants and contingent labour has been cut very dramatically from the grossly swollen levels that we inherited from the Government of whom he was a supporter. [Interruption.] It will sometimes go up a little bit, and it will sometimes come down a bit.

Actually, we sometimes need to get the right skills that do not exist in government, and by and large we will make sure that we have the right skills available on the right terms. [Interruption.] I was grateful to the hon. Member for Barnsley East (Michael Dugher), who is chuntering from a sedentary position, for the support he expressed for our efficiency and reform programme in a very robust speech earlier this week.