Whitehall's scrimping pays off with £3.75bn saving

The Government's saved on everything from supplier contracts to IT projects. Although, of course, it's come in for criticism...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude was smugger than a Prius driver at a farmers’ market today, after he reported that Whitehall has managed to save an impressive £3.75bn over the last 10 months. According to Maude, that’s equivalent to the salaries of 20,000 nurses or 150,000 secondary school teachers – which makes it all sound very noble indeed. Then again, critics have pointed out that the cost-cutting has been suspiciously speedy – so much so, in fact, that it may be guilty of throwing the baby out with the bath-water. Can the Government ever win?

Among the savings Whitehall has managed to make are £500m off its expenditure on temporary staff, £400m off its marketing budget (well, it did close the Central Office of Information, which made up the majority of the Government’s advertising spend), and £870m on consultants. On top of that, it saved £800m on renegotiating deals with its suppliers, and £300m on IT projects, while it saved the equivalent of £300m on salaries – although that came at a cost of 17,000 jobs. No word on how that paperclip-counting is going, though…

Obviously, most of that was long overdue - particularly when you take into account figures which came out last week showing cases where Whitehall had spent as much as £3,500 on a £400 laptop. But critics (the Labour party, mainly) have pointed out that in its quest to cut costs as quickly as possible, the Government might not have fully thought through some of its savings. Shutting local libraries, for example, might have a costlier impact further down the line. To be fair, though, if its savings hadn’t been so impressive, there would have been criticism about that. So there’s a sense that on this issue, its opponents are always going to find something to criticise it on.

One of those opponents is, of course, the National Union of Journalists which, as regular listeners to the Today programme might have spotted this morning, is staging its second day of strikes at the BBC in response to redundancies set to take place as part of the organisation’s quest to cut costs. Most of the job-losses at the Beeb have so far been voluntary, but it’s now said at least 100 staff face compulsory redundancy as it tries to slash overheads at the World Service. Not a particularly nice day for Auntie…

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