New CBI chief gives cautious backing to reform plans

The
new president of the CBI has backed the Government’s plans for public sector
reform, but he warned that the process will be challenging.

John
Sunderland, new CBI president and chairman of Cadbury Schweppes, told CBI West
Midlands that plans to axe up to 100,000 civil servants will deliver a maximum
£5bn of the Government’s £20bn target.

In
the his latest Budget, Gordon Brown said the Government would deliver a 2.5 per
cent efficiency gain across the public sector from 2005, by aiming to reduce
administration costs by 3.7 per cent overall by 2008 and redirect savings to
frontline services.

This
leaves 75 per cent of the savings to come from changes in working practices,
procurement and regulation, said Sunderland.

"We
in business understand the need for processes to change if greater efficiency
and value is to be achieved," he said.

"Resistance
to change is a pressure firms face every day and one that the permanent
secretaries and other civil servants must tackle if they want to achieve real
improvements.

"Change
is difficult and the challenge is enormous. Senior civil service managers, as
well as their political masters, must grasp the nettle of reform."

Sunderland
plans to make public sector reform a priority for his two-year CBI presidency,
which is likely to cover the build up to a general election and the first year
of the next government.

By Daniel Thomas

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