Conservatives claim they can win civil service buy-in for efficiency savings

The Conservatives claim they would win the hearts and minds of civil servants to create “more with less” in the public sector, should they win the next general election.

Philip Hammond, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said a Tory government would increase productivity through a continuous efficiency drive, although this could not be achieved if civil servants felt they were being coerced.

Hammond said the current government’s efficiency drives had just placed an extra administrative burden on the public services.

“If efficiency gain is going to yield year-on-year savings and become a central part of what public sector bodies do, it has to become embedded within them, not imposed upon them. It has to work with the grain of those bodies, not against it,” he said.

“We need a hearts-and-minds agenda. Coercion is hard work and can only be maintained for a limited period of time, but win the hearts and minds and the dynamics change radically.”

In a speech to the Policy Exchange think-tank, Hammond added that an incoming Conservative government would turn the efficiency drives of the past into “an institutionalised culture change in the public sector of the future”.

The private services sector, he said, had achieved a 20% growth in productivity in the decade since 1997 but public sector productivity had fallen by 3.4%.

The Conservatives would set up an advisory board on productivity to help drive the efficiency savings, the BBC reported.

The government’s Pre-Budget Report, to be published next week, is expected to include a review of Whitehall jobs to be moved out of London and a cut in the cost of senior civil servants.

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