Select Committee on Treasury Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200-219)

15 JULY 2004

RT HON GORDON BROWN MP, MR NICHOLAS MACPHERSON, MR JONATHAN STEPHENS, MR MICHAEL ELLAM AND MR CHRIS MARTIN

  Q200 Mr Fallon: Efficiency savings, Chancellor. Could we start with head count? What has been the increase in total public sector employment since 1997?

  Mr Brown: I have the figures here. Let me just go through them. Are you talking about Civil Service, or are you talking about—

  Q201 Mr Fallon: No, total public sector employment since you started in 1997?

  Mr Brown: Do remember—

  Q202 Mr Fallon: I do remember?

  Mr Brown: Do remember that my figures for the 84,000 are the Civil Service.

  Q203 Mr Fallon: We are coming to those. Just answer the question?

  Mr Brown: The figure for . . . Can I give you the figures? In 1992 5.7, 5.8 million; in 1997 just under 5 million; today 5.4 million; and that, of course, as you know, is mainly 50,000 nurses, 90,000 teaching assistants, 20,000 teachers, more than 20,000 doctors, and I can go through the list of other public servants who are working at the front-line, and I hope that you would not be suggesting that we should not have been employing the nurses and the teachers and the doctors and the teachers' assistants, and the home-helps and the carers that are necessary for a decent civilised society following years of under-investment.

  Q204 Mr Fallon: Certainly not?

  Mr Brown: So you would support that?

  Q205 Mr Fallon: Certainly would. So the increase since 1997 has been 400,000. What is the increase in the current spending period, 2003 to 2006?

  Mr Brown: I only have the figure for 2003, which is the last figure because 2006 has not yet arrived. I am giving the actual figures.

  Q206 Mr Fallon: The spending period we are in, there must be some figures. You must have the total public sector employment at the end of that period in March 06.

  Mr Brown: We know what we would like to achieve for nurses and doctors, we know what we would like to achieve for teachers and teaching assistants, but, of course, departments have to operate within their spending limits and if they can only afford a certain number of teachers, or doctors, or community support officers, that is going to be a matter for them. So I cannot give you a prospective figure at all; what I can tell you is that over the next period of the spending round there will be 84,000 jobs reduced, that is the gross figure, 84,000 is gross, 70,000 is the net figure.

  Q207 Mr Fallon: We are coming to that, but Sir Peter Gershon, your own expert, forecast the increase in total public sector employment to 06 as 360,000 in his interim report. Is that wrong?

  Mr Brown: I would not be able to confirm that at all. I can give you the figures for what we are expecting: 143,000 more health employees, that is nurses, GPs, consultants, people working in the Health Service, and, again, you would support that, it seems to me, from what you said, and therefore you would not be opposing that number of nurses and doctors being available for local hospitals; it is part of the expansion that is already factored in. In terms of working in the law and order services, can I say that we are expecting there to be 33,000 more people, for example, community support officers, police, prison officers, and in the Early Year Services, that is Nursery Education and Sure Start, and, of course, we have now Nursery Education for every three and 4 year-old, again I think you would approve of this, there will be 55,000 in the Early Years and Childcare sector. So these are front-line workers in almost every case whom I think would be a group of people whose addition to the public service staff you would support.

  Q208 Mr Fallon: What I want to be clear about is what proportion of the 400,000 total public sector employment are not front-line?

  Mr Brown: Again, the 84,000 reductions that are going to take place in the Civil Service and are people who are not essentially front-line staff.

  Q209 Mr Fallon: Are there any others? Of the increased 400,000 how many others are not front-line?

  Mr Brown: If you take the hospital sector, there are 143,000 more front-line health workers, clearly the vast majority are people who are nurses in the wards, assistants and auxiliaries for nurses and consultants and GPs, and they are not administrative staff at all, and then ambulance staff—there are 3,000 more ambulance staff—and then there are obviously people who are in the scientific and the therapy side. So all these people will be included; I would have thought a limited number of managers.

  Q210 Mr Fallon: Only the 84,000 are not front-line?

  Mr Brown: No, I did not say that at all.

  Q211 Mr Fallon: What proportion is not front-line?

  Mr Brown: I cannot give you—

  Q212 Mr Fallon: You do not know?

  Mr Brown: I cannot give you—I mean it would be ridiculous—

  Q213 Mr Fallon: You have quoted 400,000 public sector new jobs. You must know what proportion of them are not front-line?

  Mr Brown: You are talking about the figures to 2006, you are asking me to predict the figures to 2006, and I am telling you that the emphasis is on the growth of front-line staff. I have given you the figures for nurses, and for doctors, and for teachers' assistants and teachers. It is clear from these figures that the vast majority of any new staff are going to be front-line staff; and now you know that the emphasis of the Civil Service Reforms are to move resources from what you might call head office and central functions and back office services into the front-line, I would have thought you would be applauding that.

  Q214 Mr Fallon: You have no idea of the 400,000 army how many others are not front-line?

  Mr Brown: Which 400,000 figure? You are talking about a figure that you say is the prospective figure for public services.

  Q215 Mr Fallon: You have just given me the figure. An increase of five million when you started to 5.4 million where you are now?

  Mr Brown: The questions you were asking me about were the figures to 2006. I rightly said, I cannot give you all the figures prospectively. What we can look at is what happened in the past, if that is what you want to do, but our discussion has been, as you rightly put the question, what is the break down of figures between now and 2006. I cannot give you that, because we do not know exactly what is going to happen, nor should we, because it is going to be a matter for local hospitals and local schools to make the decisions, in many cases, about the balance of resources, and, again, I would have thought you would have supported this local transference of responsibility.

  Q216 Mr Fallon: I am coming to that. Let us look at the actual head count reduction of 104,000 then. I think 20,000 of that is from the devolved administrations in local government?

  Mr Brown: Hold on. What I announced in the House of Commons was 84,000 Civil Service staff. Then I said, in answer to questions during the debate in the House of Commons, that 10,000 of these staff were people who would probably be transferred to being personal advisers in the Jobcentre Plus network and in total another 4,000 were jobs that were being relocated. Then I raised the question of—because it was right for us to look at this in the spending round—what is going to happen to the devolved administrations which are outside our decision-making process, and what is going to happen to local government; but I had discussions with the devolved administrations and with the Northern Ireland Office, and I think there are 25,000 civil servants in Northern Ireland alone, so I had discussions with the First Ministers in Scotland and Wales and with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and then I looked at what our the local government settlements ought to be able to achieve in terms of our assumptions about the efficiencies that would be achieved in local government and therefore what we would expect of them, and I said, on the basis of my discussions of these figures, that I would have thought an additional 20,000 jobs could be moved from back office and transaction services and all these sorts of things and these could be saved as well; and then I gave a further figure about relocation, which we may come on to in a minute. So these are the figures I gave to the House of Commons.

  Q217 Mr Fallon: Sure, and they were very useful. I just want to be clear about the 20,000. You said you had had discussions. Have these figures been accepted by the local government or the devolved administrations?

  Mr Brown: What has happened is that in Scotland and Wales they have set up their own reviews. In Wales there is an official review—it has got a name, Spree, or something, but in Wales it is officially set up—in Scotland they are going through this, the Northern Ireland office clearly has some difficult decisions to make. You may know that social security, at least in part, is administered by the Northern Ireland office for Northern Ireland, so the same sort of process that has been working with the Department of Work and Pensions, which has revealed a large number of changes through computerisation, effectively, making possible the cut in back office staff, that will happen in Northern Ireland, and that is our best estimate; but it is up to the devolved administrations as devolution is the principle applied that they make the decisions, but they only have money on the basis that they are making these efficiency savings.

  Q218 Mr Fallon: So they have to deliver the 20,000 jobs?

  Mr Brown: They have to work within their budgets, and, therefore, if they do not make the efficiency savings, there is not going to be any more money coming from us. That is my point.

  Q219 Mr Fallon: The 20,000—we were told by your officials yesterday that 5,000 of those 20, roughly, were local government. How will you enforce 5,000 job cuts in local government?

  Mr Brown: I do not think that was the figure that was given by the officials yesterday. When I expressed surprise at it . . . . I am told it was the other way round, that it is unlikely that it would be—it is more like 15,000 from local government than 5,000, but there is no final figure available because discussions would have to continue.


 
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