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Government Projects: Cost to Public Purse

Volume 729: debated on Thursday 16 March 2023

8. What steps his Department is taking to reduce the cost to the public purse of Government projects. (904111)

The Infrastructure and Projects Authority’s standards, tools and training for Government projects help to ensure that projects are set up for success. The IPA’s transforming infrastructure performance programme is helping to reduce the cost of projects.

It came as a shock to one of my constituents recently when I pointed out that more than 9,000 public sector workers are paid more than the Prime Minister, including £620,000 being paid to the chief executive of the continually failing HS2 Ltd. It is all public money, so does the Minister agree that we have to demand value for money from such appointments and cap excessive salaries from the public purse?

I agree with my hon. Friend that it is essential that we get value for money from the investments we make in our people. There is a role for well-paid people to deliver important projects for the people of this country, but I assure him that any payments above £150,000—that covers the entire remuneration package, not just the salary—must be not only justified by the relevant Department, but personally signed off by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who takes a very close interest in such matters.

Ministers have lifted the cap on consultancy spending for Government Departments at a time when many members of the public are struggling to pay bills or put food on the table. Uncapping the spend on consultancy fees, rather than investing in building and nurturing internal civil service talent, may be short-sighted. Will the Minister reinstate the cap and instead focus on the internal development of skills?

There is a difference between a cap and a control, and it is up to Departments to ensure that they are getting value for money in what they spend. Cutting bureaucracy and cutting exercises that take up a lot of civil service time but that are not productive is a good thing. There is a role for consultancy, alongside growing and nurturing the resources inside the service. It is important that we always get value for money, but that is best generated by having a Department that is laser-focused on value for money in what it is spending and on why it is spending it.