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Local government workers should be allowed to work from home if the public sector is to realise efficiency savings outlined by last year's treasury-backed Gershon Review.

Not only would teleworking increase staff productivity and help improve chances to hang on to key workers and attract new staff, it could also lead to councils reducing costly overheads such as maintaining office space.

So says a survey by Telewest Business, which quizzed 100 senior council officials on how to cut increase staff productivity to help save £6.5b by 2007-2008 identified by the Gershon Review.

The introduction of e-government is seen as one way the public sector can halt spiralling costs. But the way it manages its own staff is also seen as critical.

"Local council priorities have shifted to the next wave of e-government with Gershon, from getting public services online to waking up to how efficiency gains can be made across the entire organisation," said Christopher Small, a director at Telewest Business.

"Our survey found that 65 per cent of local councils are feeling under increasing pressure to reduce office space in the next few years. When you couple this with the pressure to increase staff productivity and find people with the right skills, embracing new communications technologies could be the key to making sure councils gain greater efficiencies without cutting staff or public services."

Telewest described as "alarming" findings that only a limited number of councils employed teleworking to reduce overheads. ®

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