Right-wingers faithfully repeat Francis Maude’s imaginary “savings”


by Tim Fenton    
9:40 am - August 10th 2012

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Not so long ago, there were grumbles that the Maily Telegraph had become insufficiently reliable for Conservatives: dishing the whole dirt on Parliamentary expenses – not just giving Labour the going over.

Yesterday though, those readers need wonder no more, as a Government press release was shamelessly churned over as if it were real news, and without the odd fact check anywhere.

Political Correspondent Rowena Mason obediently told those upstanding and right leaning readers exactly what Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude decided they should hear.

The Civil Service, for instance, is held to be at its smallest since the Second World War, but that isn’t quite accurate: the number is the lowest since before the war.

And, although Ms Mason talks up the reduction in Civil Service numbers to around 430,000, the Coalition’s target – not in the Telegraph article – was 380,000. So Maude and his efficiency men are thus far 50,000 short.

Moreover, they’ve accomplished some of these reductions by not filling vacant posts, which is fine in the short term, but is the kind of exercise that is likely to catch up with you over time, unless those jobs did not need to be filled. It gives the impression of proving that there was really waste by assuming that vacant posts are automatically waste – a neat but circular argument.

Maude claims his savings amount to an annual reduction of £5 billion, but – to no surprise – there is nothing to back up the figures. Consultancy is said to have been reduced – but no breakdown of figures is provided, just that the amount is “more than £1 billion”.

What kinds of consultants are being shed? Is it really a reduction in consultancy services? Or is it merely a reduction in the number of those who work through service or other limited companies – in other words, freelance staff, such as those who work in IT?

The excellent Whitehall Watch blog has posted on this subject, under the title “Lies, Damn Lies and Government Efficiency Savings – yet again“. Colin Talbot runs through the claimed “savings” and shows that they may not be all they are claimed to be.

Certainly, “efficiency savings” is a misleading description of much of what has been presented, as it appears to be no more than cuts. Talbot points out that much of the Civil Service is concerned with delivering services – like the tax system, benefits system, and controlling our borders.


A longer version of this post is here

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About the author
Tim is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He blogs more frequently at Zelo Street
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Reader comments


What total nonsense this article is once again….these savings are relatively well documented. Colin Talbot, and clearly you, argue that these are not real savings because they are a reduction in input costs which *might* effect outputs…but even then it is ridiculous to suggest that the whole of the input cost would be passed through to outputs – as we well know there is plenty of waste in the public sector.

He even goes far enough to suggest that savings through bulk buying are somehow not efficiency savings, by making a truly flimsy reference to cheaper hip joints. Really? Rationalising buying in bulk to get better deals is very different to simply buying cheaper, and as we know a lot of government procurement was done at vastly inflated prices thanks to the simple shopper.

At least he does mention that none of Labour’s supposed spending cuts ever materialized – not a huge surprise given their propensity for state backed profligacy.

@1

as we well know there is plenty of waste in the public sector.

Really? Has that been independently verified? And if not, how can we all “know” something that has never been proven.

In any case, the question of whether there’s waste in the public sector doesn’t really justify the policy – the important question (and one which I’ve never seen satisfactorily answered) is how the level of “waste” in the public sector compares to “waste” in the private sector.

3. Chaise Guevara

@ bluepillnation

“the important question (and one which I’ve never seen satisfactorily answered) is how the level of “waste” in the public sector compares to “waste” in the private sector”

Not to mention the question of whether the “savings” are actually cutting waste, and what side effects there may be.

Tyler: “it is ridiculous to suggest that the whole of the input cost would be passed through to outputs – as we well know there is plenty of waste in the public sector.”

Yes, as we all know. There are headlines plastered all over news stands implying it to be the case. No smoke without fire and all that. Obviously if you let civil service posts go vacant at random and don’t fill them, it’s an efficiency saving. What could possibly go wrong? None of these civil servants ever do anything anyway. They just drink tea, except at Christmas when they go round putting up signs saying “Winterval” everywhere. As we all know, civil servants hate Christmas.

There is waste in private companies just as much as there is waste in the public sector. However, waste in private companies is at a level which does not seriously affect it’s profitibility – otherwise the company becomes inefficeint against it’s competitors because it has raise prices. So customers will stop buying it’s products and the company goes bust. However waste in the public sector never leaves to the department going bust. All that happens is that more money is poured in to cover the losses. Money that has to come from somewhere – the taxpayer. And the taxpayer doesn’t have a choice about going to another department to get the same service/product, something they can do with private companies.

The biggest culprists in waste in private companies? Big massive monopolies. For exactly the reason that they can raise prices and customers can’t go elsewhere. Just like the state which is basically a monopoly in providing a service to taxpayers.

6. Robin Levett

@Tyler #1:

as we well know there is plenty of waste in the public sector

How old are you, Tyler?

Throughout my adult life – for over 30 years – politicians have been making the mendacious claim that they can cut public spending without affecting services by cutting waste. 30 years of civil servants never having quite enough money do a proper job; now that is inefficiency for you.

When is to going to dawn on people like you that if after 30+ years of year on year “efficiency savings” of 3, 4, 5% there is still “plenty of waste in the public sector” perhaps politicians couldn’t recognise waste in the public sector if they saw it? When will you realise that not filling an essential post in the name of efficiency savings is actually introducing inefficiency? That much of any existing waste in the public sector is there because of “efficiency savings”, and not despite them?

7. Robin Levett

@Tyler #1 (again):

He even goes far enough to suggest that savings through bulk buying are somehow not efficiency savings, by making a truly flimsy reference to cheaper hip joints…

Can you not read? He says that on current information we don’t know whether they will be savings at all – which was the context of the reference to cheaper, but inferior, hip joints – and that if they are indeed savings, they are “economy”, not “efficiency” savings. What is your argument against that?


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  1. Liberal Conspiracy

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  2. Owen

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  3. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – Right-wingers faithfully repeat Francis Maude’s imaginary “savings” http://t.co/dTWvmYXV

  4. Jason Brickley

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  5. PCS Nottingham DWP

    Civil service savings are illusory. Not savings to the public purse. More like stealth privatisation. http://t.co/KUnAUUG9

  6. Natacha Kennedy

    Right-wingers faithfully repeat Francis Maude’s imaginary “savings” | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/SwEj16Xe via @libcon

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  9. Robert CP

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  10. Alex Braithwaite

    Right-wingers faithfully repeat Francis Maude’s imaginary “savings” | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/7Ypv4jZH via @libcon

  11. Richard Murphy

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    RT @labour52rose Right-wingers faithfully repeat Francis Maude’s imaginary “savings” | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/jlW8yrRK via @libcon

  13. Phillip Tilley

    Right-wingers faithfully repeat Francis Maude’s imaginary “savings” | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/7Ypv4jZH via @libcon

  14. Gillian Kalter

    Right-wingers faithfully repeat Francis Maude’s imaginary “savings” | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/7Ypv4jZH via @libcon

  15. Pete

    Right-wingers faithfully repeat Francis Maude’s imaginary “savings” | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/7Ypv4jZH via @libcon

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    Right-wingers faithfully repeat Francis Maude’s imaginary “savings” | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/7Ypv4jZH via @libcon

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