The National Audit Office today reported that public bodies reduced their administrative spending by £723 million in 2012-13, compared to 2010-11. 283 public bodies have been removed, either by merging them with other bodies or outright abolition. This represents 92% of the expected total reduction. So far, so good. The Cabinet Office are pleased that the NAO “recognises this progress” in driving costs out of the system. However, as the NAO indicate in the detail of the report, savings figures alone don’t tell the full story of the success or failure of reform in government. The spending reductions, which are expected to total £2.6 billion over four years, are partially the result of savings not related to the reform programme. Organisations have been working to find other efficiencies and these savings are not separated from the savings arising as a direct result of the programme. Given this, it is unclear exactly what impact the bonfire has had on the expenditure of public bodies. Substantial savings have certainly been achieved, but could similar figures have been achieved by other means, without the need to dramatically reduce the number of public bodies? The focus on the scale of savings also obscures the […]

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