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Des Browne talks gains

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The UK government is making good progress toward meeting the targets outlined in the Gershon efficiency review, but the hard work is still to come. To meet targets, government departments and local authorities need to share best practice, so that everyone can gain from it.

Speaking at the OGC's annual conference on efficiency today, Des Browne MP, chief secretary to the Treasury, said that "reasonable progress" had been made in local and central government towards realising the efficiency gains outlined in the Gershon review.

He warned that the initial round of savings - £2bn have been realised so far - have probably been in the areas where it is relatively easy to tighten things up, and warned that "later efficiency gains will be harder to realise".

OGC chief executive John Oughton said that he was not concerned by the challenge. "These savings may be harder to find, but we've had longer to plan for them. People know what they are going to have to do, and they are planning already," he said.

Oughton stressed that the process must not become mandated. "Mandating doesn't really deliver the results you want. At this stage in the project, we have everyone's attention already. Bodies beyond Whitehall have a lot of autonomy anyway, and I don't want to cut across that."

Around a third of the future savings will come from changes to procurement, the OGC says. The rest will be from increasing productivity, policy funding, corporate services and so on.

But better exchange of information between organisations will be vital to achieving the targets, Oughton says.

The OGC has conducted an IT benchmarking survey across government organisations, to find out how much various institutions are paying for the same products. It found that across 12 organisations, the amount departments were paying for desktop monitors ranged from £159 to £269.

"We will expect benchmark prices to be more visible," Oughton noted.

The Gershon report identified a total of £21.5bn of savings that can be made in public spending over the next two and a half years. ®

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