12 September 2011

Mike Freer to "advise" Minister on savings - and Consultants in Government.

Mr Mustard is looking forward to reading later about the savings of £1bn that Mr Freer claims to have identified in Central Government. We have a small problem of £54m to find over 3 years. That is evidently chicken feed for Mr Freer and if he were to pop along to the council for an afternoon he could find those excessive back office costs and keep front line services then his seat is guaranteed for life by the people of Barnet. How about it Mr Freer? The below is what appears on the Finchley & Golders Green Conservatives website. Type in red is illumination added by Mr Mustard.

Mike Freer MP is to meet with Francis Maude, the Minister leading the Coalition Government’s cost saving program, to advise on what central government can learn from Barnet Council’s experience. ( and yet Barnet Council are in a £54m hole! ) 

Following an exchange in the House of Commons, Mike Freer said “Ministers have made an excellent start identifying waste and inefficiency. Cutting this fat means the bones of front line services are saved, but I believe there is more that can be done. The lessons I learnt at Barnet Council are directly applicable to central government, and that is what I will be putting across to the Minister.” ( Mr Mustard looks forward to seeing the meat of these savings. Mobile phone costs will be one item, for sure, but what are the rest? )

The Government’s Efficiency and Reform Group has already identified £3.75bn of savings through better procurement and by lowering overheads. Using Written Parliamentary Questions, Mike Freer has identified an additional £1bn of potential savings, based on ‘back office’ reductions made during his leadership of Barnet Council. ( If you would like to see the written questions, click here, but don't forget to come back. Is that £1bn in a year or 10 years? ) 

Below is the exchange yesterday in the House:

Mike Freer (Finchley and Golders Green): What estimate he has made of the savings to the public purse arising from the work of the Efficiency and Reform Group in 2010-11?

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General (Mr Francis Maude): The Government saved £3.75 billion in their first 10 months after taking office by stopping unnecessary and wasteful spending. We saved £800 million by renegotiating with the biggest suppliers to Government. We cut spending on consultants by 70% and on advertising by 80%. This is just the beginning; there is much more to be done. ( There is an awful lot of unnecessary and wasteful spending in Barnet of which some like the publication "Barnet First" existed in Mr Freer's time. Ooh look, spending on consultants cut by 70%; how many million would that come to in Barnet? )

Mike Freer: I thank the Minister and welcome the initial savings of the Efficiency and Reform Group. He will be aware, however, of the £1 billion of additional savings that my own research has identified. Will he agree that I could meet the chair of the Efficiency and Reform Group to discuss these savings further?  ( Please publish them Mr Freer once you have discussed them. Do you have a date for the meeting yet? )

Mr Maude: The chair of the Efficiency and Reform Group is me, so I will be delighted to meet my hon. Friend, who, when he was leader of Barnet council, showed how much can be done. We do, absolutely, have a huge amount to learn from what is being done best in local government, particularly the sort of savings that can be made by much better use of office accommodation. ( Has the current management forgotten what Mr Freer's legacy was - how to make easy savings? Office accommodation, there is lots of that, NLBP, Barnet House, Hendon Town Hall, how many other buildings? - shedloads.  )

Whilst looking through written questions Mr Mustard came across this very interesting one to Francis Maude MP.

Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby, Labour)

To ask the Prime Minister how many senior civil servants in his Office at each grade had worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst and Young, Deloitte or KPMG immediately prior to taking up their appointment in each of the last four years; what consultancy agreements his Office had with those firms in each such year; and how many consultants from those firms have advised his Office in each such year. ( The same question in relation to consultants would probably be a good one at Barnet Council )

Francis Maude (Minister for the Cabinet Office; Horsham, Conservative)

The Prime Minister's Office is an integral part of the Cabinet Office and therefore the answer provided is for the whole of the Cabinet Office.

Appointments to the civil service are made on merit on the basis of fair and open competition in accordance with the Constitutional Reform Act 2010.

The information requested for the Cabinet Office is not readily available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

In May 2010 the Government announced a freeze on new consultancy expenditure. Any exception to this freeze (where the estimated value is over £20,000) must be approved by the relevant Minister. In the case of the Cabinet Office, the Minister for the Cabinet Office approves any exception to the consultancy freeze. Expenditure on consultancy is only allowed if the consultancy is deemed to be operationally necessary, or the work can not be done by in-house staff. All consultancy contracts are subject to a review every three months, for a maximum of nine months. Where contracts go beyond nine months, they must be submitted for approval to the Efficiency and Reform Group for consideration by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and the Minister for the Cabinet Office.

Mr Mustard is shocked to find that a very sensible policy that is being applied in central government is not being applied in Barnet Council.

Are any councillors reading this blog? please do something.

Mr Mustard has just found a blog post by The Barnet Eye about Mr Freer's mobile phone questions here. Take a look.

His Wikipedia entry is here if you want some background information.

Yours sincerely

Mr Mustard

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