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Efficient Government Plan Update Briefing No. 135

March. 2006


In Briefings No.86 and 108 we outlined the Scottish Executive's Efficient Government Initiative. This briefing further updates that guidance. The initiative was designed to deliver public sector savings of £500m by 2007-8 and £1 billion by 2009-10. These savings are to be redirected to 'front line' services.

Efficient Government Plan

The initial targets for the initiative have been increased. It is now expected that savings will be £745m by 2007/8. The aim is to increase this to £900m. Total savings over the three years are now expected to be nearer £1732 million. Unlike previous reviews the money does not go back to the centre but is reinvested in services. The main portfolio areas for savings are: Finance & Public Services (Inc. local govt.), Health, Non NHS procurement and Scottish Water

The focus for savings is:

  • Procurement
  • Managing Absence
  • Asset Management
  • Shared Services
  • Streamlining Bureaucracy

Scottish Parliament Finance Committee Response

Tom McCabe, Minister for Finance, recently responded to the Finance Committee recommendations on the initiative. The committee noted that a high proportion of savings were coming from health and local government. They were also concerned about the audit trail benchmark and how progress in general will be measured. The Executive welcomed committee's recommendation that Audit Scotland be involved in ensuring the transparency of the process and establish baselines for monitoring it in the future but stated that it was for Audit Scotland to respond to the request. He also stated that technical notes on the initiative will be available at the end of March. There is a link to Mr McCabe's response in the further info section of this briefing.

UNISON response to Efficient Government

UNISON recognises that all public sector organisations should be aware of opportunities to work more efficiently and effectively. UNISON's own "Revitalise" campaign is focused on the aim of creating world class public services able to adapt to the challenges of the future. UNISON is however concerned that in the past 'efficiency savings' have simply been a mask for real cuts in services or privatisation. Branches should ensure that the changes made under Efficient Government do in fact lead to improved services.

Procurement and asset management

UNISON supports efficiency gains made via collective buying and e-procurement, joining up estate management across the public sector and reducing maintenance costs is a sensible approach. UNISON opposes the illusion of savings via PFI/PPP. We do have concerns about job numbers, relocation and the impact on local and small suppliers.

Managing Absence

UNISON Scotland recognises that employers want to manage absence and that persistent misuse of sick leave by employees needs to be dealt with as it imposes on other work colleagues. However, UNISON Scotland is concerned that the level of misuse is often exaggerated and that many sickness absence policies impose a rigid, punitive approach rather than treating staff as a valued resource. Improved management of absence should include keeping statistics, stress counselling, return to work interviews and training for line managers. Branches should monitor the processes in their workplace and support members through the process. The P and I team will produce a Managing Absence briefing soon.

Shared services

Shared Services describes the pooling of those administrative procedures common to many departments, which can be carried out using new technology, e.g. personnel records, payroll, finance, customer service, etc this often involves call centre technologies. Regional and virtual solutions are effective if they avoid privatisation and 'big shed' solutions. Sharing services is a way of achieving savings without the disruption of whole sale reorganisation. Employers should be encouraged to use Public Service Networks rather than outsourcing to private firms.

Streamlining bureaucracy

Employers need to recognise the value of essential administrative tasks staff undertake. They should also make more effort to ensure the public understand the value of the service provided. Savings must avoid the de-skilling of administrative staff which can lead to their de-motivation and high turnover. This would result in the loss of valuable experience and local knowledge. Systems are essential to developing 'joined up government' and a consistent level of service for the public.

The Local Government Improvement Service

The Improvement Service was established to "support, promote and assist in the delivery of excellent public services through learning, sharing and delivering improvement solutions". The Service has budget of approximately £4million over 3 years provided by the Scottish Executive. It will have three partners COSLA, the Scottish Executive and SOLACE as core members forming the Board of Directors. The organisation has minimal funding and is in the early stages of its work. Please look out for any publications via CoSLA website. See link in 'further info' section.

Action for branches

Branches should continue to ensure that they are consulted over any plans under this initiative and to look for any bids by your employer to the Efficient Government Fund

In order for us to develop further guidance for branches and engage with government through the Scottish Public Service Forum please forward examples of good and bad practice to Kay Sillars at the P&I Team in UNISON House k.sillars@unison.co.uk.

Contacts list: Kay Sillars k.sillars@unison.co.uk Dave Watson - d.watson@unison.co.uk @ The P&I Team, 14 West Campbell Street, Glasgow G2 6RX Tel 0870 777006 Fax 0141 342 2835



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Further Information

Please forward examples of good and bad practice Kay Sillars at the P&I Team in UNISON House k.sillars@unison.co.uk. to help develop further guidance for branches and engage with government through the Scottish Public Service Forum

Contacts list: Kay Sillars k.sillars@unison.co.uk
Dave Watson d.watson@unison.co.uk
@P&I Team 14 West Campbell Street GLASGOW G2 6RX
Tel: 0845 355 0845 Fax: 0141 307 2572