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Cross-Government Planning and Implementation

Volume 592: debated on Wednesday 11 February 2015

7. What plans he has to improve the effectiveness of his Department in co-ordinating planning and implementation across Government Departments. (907560)

That is a question on which the Public Administration Committee has focused for a long time, and very welcome it is too.

The creation of the implementation unit in the Cabinet Office has done a great deal to increase implementation capabilities throughout the Government, and I am glad to say that we have launched a series of other initiatives to bring Departments together. We have created the better care fund, the stabilisation unit, the international energy unit and the troubled families programme, and we intend to continue the process.

During the inquiry that we conducted on future challenges facing the machinery of Whitehall, we found that, so far, the Government have been very good at imposing departmental spending limits, but there is a capability deficit when it comes to cross-departmental financial planning and management. How do the Government propose to address that?

I agree that it needs to be tackled. I think that the most signal example is the relationship between local authorities—in particular, adult social care departments—and the health service. We are now focusing on that above all, and trying to prevent circumstances in which a failure to pool budgets leads to worse results for patients. I think that we shall then have a model that we will try to use in many other areas.

Does the Minister have any discussions with other Departments about the closure of offices? Offices are being closed in my constituency, and that would clearly not be happening if efficiency were the criterion. What co-ordination does the Minister apply to the closure of offices in the areas that need them most?

In recent years, my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office has had the unique distinction of having made public services more efficient by finding vast efficiency savings, which have amounted to some £20 billion a year in the current Parliament. Had the last Government followed such a lead, we might not have been in the dire situation in which we found ourselves in 2010, and the need for our long-term economic plan might not have been as great as it was.