Whitehall's pledge to £7bn efficiency plans in doubt

Martin Read, head of the governmental IT efficiency review, has questioned the "political will" of ministers to make the proposed changes in order to save £7.2 billion in costs.

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Martin Read, head of the governmental IT efficiency review, has questioned the "political will" of ministers to make the proposed changes in order to save £7.2 billion in costs.

Read, the former Logica chief who was tasked by the government to look at back-office efficiency for the Operational Efficiency Programme (OEP), told ministers in the Treasury Select Committee that there was room for more enthusiasm and dedication to the task.

"Although big savings have been made as a result of the Gershon process, I'm not really sure that this has ever been a matter of very evident, collective ministerial will right at the top of the agenda,” he said to ministers at the House of Commons' treasury sub-committee.

Read launched a fleshed-out Operational Efficiency Programme last week, which details how the government should improve its IT operations. The main thrust of the report is to simplify and standardise processes to achieve radical savings.

But Read told MPs that the task requires "huge political will”, which involves “changing the culture, the DNA” so that operational efficiency “is something that managers are there to do in the way that they are there to do other stuff as well".

“For the next tranche of savings to come out of the OEP process, one of the preconditions for that will be sustained, very visible, ministerial political commitment," he said.

Read advises the government to take a more business-like approach to operations, placing everything under strict managerial and cost controls, and working towards savings through shared services and efficiency gains wherever possible.

The sharing of back-office services and technology, rather than duplicate existing technology, would create efficiencies. Read estimates that existing shared back office centres should be grouped with a target of cutting 25 percent from costs in three years.

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