Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80-99)|
1 APRIL 2004
TURNBULL, KCB CVO, SIR
KCB, AND MR
Q80 Mr Prentice: The Lyons and Gershon
Reviews reported to the Treasury but what kind of input did the
Cabinet Office have into those reviews?
Sir Andrew Turnbull: Again the
Efficiency Review has been a joint effort. Maybe the idea started
in Number Ten, but the first mention you will find is in the '03
Budget document. Treasury then did some work on it. Adam Sharples
wrote a report about methodology and approach and then in June
and July I got together with Peter Gershon and people in the Treasury
to work out how we would structure the review and how we would
do the work. The work has been done out of the Treasury to a design
which I devised. It has straddled the two departments and we are
kind of co-owners of it.
Q81 Mr Prentice: Okay. Is it deliverable?
I ask that question because I have a piece by Nicholas Timms from
the FT in front of me here and he says "When Gordon
Brown committed the Government to public sector efficiency savings
worth £20 billion in his budget speech even his own officials
were not entirely clear what he meant". You know where the
savings are going to come from?
Sir Andrew Turnbull: I know how
he has calculated them. If you look in the Budget document there
is a particular category called "Resource DEL", that
is basically the spending of departments on services, which is
separate from capital and annually managed expenditure which lists
debt interest, and so on. That number is £263 billion, 7.5%
of that, in other words 2.5% over three years, is almost exactly
£20 billion. That is how that calculation is done. There
is then what counts as an efficiency saving: some of it will save
money; some of it will release more frontline time to doctors,
the police; and some will offer an improvement in services. Some
of these are cash in hand savings and some of them turn up as
improvements in the service. That is how the calculation is done.
Q82 Mr Prentice: I was interested in
how deliverable this is. It was a major part of the Budget speech,
he was saying 40,000 civil servants' jobs are going to go. You
think that is obviously deliverable.
Sir Andrew Turnbull: That was
40,000 in two departments. Yes, I think it is deliverable. When
you think of the power of technology, of e-enablement in delivering
services there are major savings that can be made. In all of the
advice we get from the private sector about procurement they all
tell us that by comparison with the savings that large companies
have made we have still got a great deal of scope to drive much
harder bargains and manage projects better. We also believe that
the way we organise the back office functions and draw up accounts,
pay bills, keeping track of people and all their HR data can improve
Q83 Mr Prentice: How are civil servants
taking this because they would say some of those back office functions
are essential and they should be provided by civil servants rather
than say Capita, which is what is going to happen in the Department
of Work and Pensions?
Sir Andrew Turnbull: Firstly,
they are essential. The question is really how you do that. The
first thing is, do you run these systems in ways which are terribly
complex? Can you gain by simplifying them? Secondly, can you make
savings by getting small organisations for example the Cabinet
Office who are spending about £250 million is a small organisation.
We have the full gamut of finance systems. We have an HR system
we can share with other organisations. We are working on a project
to pool our resources. There is then a quite separate decision,
once you have simplified it, whether you will have it for one
department or whether you will run this across a number of departments.
There is then a separate decision about whether you provide that
service in-house or whether you out-source it. On that you take
what should be a quite straightforward value-for-money decision.
We do not start with a presumption that one is better than the
Q84 Mr Prentice: Do you think this is
hugely going to damage morale in the Civil Service?
Sir Andrew Turnbull: It is certainly
a challenge to the leaders of the service to lead the service
through this major process of change. Handled badly, yes, but
not if handled well. You can get to a point where you have a sense
where you are working for a highly productive, highly effective
organisation and you get the buzz of success.
Q85 Chairman: Lyons recommended that
27%I hope I not have got my figures wrongof the
Cabinet Office could be relocated, do you think you can deliver
Sir Andrew Turnbull: There are
some things which we think we definitely want and there are a
couple of items where he is saying "you think this needs
to stay where it is", eg the pensions operation in Basingstoke
and CMPS in Sunningdale and he is saying "prove it".
There will be some, but not necessarily the maximum of the menu
he has come up with.
Q86 Chairman: Is the whole programme
to be driven out of the Cabinet Office or out of the Treasury?
Sir Andrew Turnbull: It is going
to be done as a joint project. We have to deliver the set of proposals
that we are going to act upon. On 26 April departments will deliver
to the Treasury their proposals for the Spending Round, including
their proposals on efficiency. There will then be in a matter
of a number of weeks an argument about those and then we will
settle on what it is that is going to be done. That gets written
in to the settlement letters and the survey. We then have to deviseand
we have not finished the work on how we will do ithow we
operate the Efficiency Review in its implementation phase. Some
of that will be cared for by OGC, some of it will be led by Cabinet
Office units and then we need a piece of apparatus to look at
the whole thing. Again it will be a joint enterprise in the same
way as it has been up to now.
Q87 Chairman: Implementation is harder
than writing reports, is it not?
Sir Andrew Turnbull: It is.
Q88 Kevin Brennan: Sir David, I notice
you have not said anything yet.
Sir David Omand: You have not
asked me anything.
Q89 Kevin Brennan: On this little sheet
we were sent it has the Minister and his picture, Sir Andrew Turnbull
and his picture, Colin Balmer and his picture and it has your
name but your picture is not on it, I wondered whether you were
meant to be keeping a low profile or was that just a coincidence?
Sir David Omand: The absence of
a picture does not hurt me, my photograph is known from my previous
jobs in the Home Office and in the Ministry of Defence.
Q90 Kevin Brennan: I was pulling your
leg. What is your role in the Cabinet Office, is it about promoting
standards and all that?
Sir David Omand: No, if we take
the mission areas that Andrew referred to and if we look at the
first, "supporting the Prime Minister in leading the Government"
I have a clear role in helping with the formulation of strategy,
for example our national counter-terrorism strategy, on which
I spend a lot of time at the moment. The second mission area is,
"the coordination of policy and operations across government".
There, clearly, we have the delivery of timely and accurate intelligence.
We have to maintain a capability to handle terrorist incidents
and other emergencies. These are central coordinating functions
for which I am responsible.
Q91 Kevin Brennan: On the sheet here
under coordination and promoting standards your name is the first
on the list, do you have a role in promoting standards, including
things like "making sure that ministers, special advisers
and civil servants are aware of and abide by established standards
of propriety and ethics", or is that nothing to do with your
Sir David Omand: That is not part
of my role.
Sir Andrew Turnbull: That is the
responsibility of Sue Gray, Head of Propriety and Ethics. That
is a group which reports directly to me.
Q92 Kevin Brennan: Why are there three
columns on the one with the photographs on it and four columns
on the larger departmental plan diagram we have had? "Supporting
the Prime Minister" is missing from the other diagram you
supplied to us.
Mr Balmer: It is purely a matter
or timing. We produced the wall-chart last autumn because of some
pressures from staff to understand how the new individuals, particularly
how I, fitted in, so we produced that wall-chart, and because
it is designed to go on people's desks and on walls we squeezed
it into three columns and that is why we pulled together coordination
and standards into one heading. We have been working since then
on producing a departmental plan where we have been elaborating
much more clearly what the objectives are. If you are looking
to understand how the Cabinet Office works the plan is the thing
to look at rather than the wall-chart.
Q93 Kevin Brennan: Which one is the plan
and which one is the wall-chart?
Mr Balmer: The bigger one is the
plan and the small one is the wall-chart.
Q94 Kevin Brennan: The Chairman asked
this question earlier on, is it really appropriate to call this
organisation at the centre of government the Cabinet Office any
more, should we not if we are trying to establish some sort of
clarity be saying what it is on the tin these days in government?
What does that mean to people, the Cabinet Office?
Sir Andrew Turnbull: You are right
but I do not know whether HM Treasury is any more accurate as
a description of the modern functions of the Treasury.
Q95 Kevin Brennan: We could call it the
Department of Finance but I think people do know that the Treasury
deals with money, do they not?
Sir Andrew Turnbull: You could
easily produce a new name but we have not found that necessary.
We can explain what we do. It has a long history, and you do not
discard history lightly. You do it when you think it is necessary
Q96 Kevin Brennan: It really dates back
to the end of the First World War and things have changed.
Sir Andrew Turnbull: It is a historic
name rather than "it does what it says on the tin" name.
Q97 Kevin Brennan: I think somebody asked
this question earlier on, I was keen to explore it a little more,
how do you measurebecause we have had a lot of restructures
and we see these diagrams every year, different diagrams about
the centre and the new centre and last year's centre and this
year's centre, there is a lot of change going on at the centre
of governmentif this change and these restructurings are
Sir Andrew Turnbull: I have to
go back to the earlier answer to Kelvin Hopkins, ultimately it
is whether PSA objectives for the improvement of public services
are being measured and whether the standards of security in the
country are being sustained. You have to look at the outcomes.
Part of our problem is that you can measure what we do in a very
near sense, but that is rather trivial, or you can measure it
in a rather fundamental sense.
Q98 Kevin Brennan: That is the problem.
Just to pursue that, the other thing that you said was that the
ultimate aim of the Cabinet Office and indeed the Government as
a whole is to produce a society that people are happier living
in. That is what you said. It was broadly philosophical. The fact
is that people are no happier than they were 30 or 40 years ago
if you ask them about it despite PSA targets and all of this other
material we use to measure whether the goose is getting any fatter.
People are not any happier. Should we not be looking more fundamentally
at the heart of government and of ways of measuring whether Government
is effective by actually asking them. Incidentally when you do
ask them they are not convinced that the reforms which have been
taking place in Government and that are going on are actually
making their lives any better.
Sir Andrew Turnbull: You get a
very mixed picture. If you ask people about primary schools I
think unambiguously you will get a view they are better than they
were ten years ago. I think if you ask about the service you get
from a GP's surgery you will probably get the same answer. On
the other hand if you said, "Is the Health Service getting
better?" by and large people tend to say no. The more generalised
Q99 Kevin Brennan: If you ask people,
according to this report in the Independent on 24 March,
about the quality of education over the next few years they expect
it to: Get much better, 5%; get better, 33%; stay the same, 35%;
get worse, 19%; get much worse, 4%. 23% think that it will get
Sir Andrew Turnbull: There is
a clear balance of ups and downs in those figures. I remember
seeing that and I was rather encouraged by it.