The chancellor’s muddled and unremarkable budget has introduced lots of bad things (it was a very good day for the tax advising profession: more complex tax systems mean more work for them, not more money for the state), but I just want to comment on “Efficiency Savings”.
It seems to me that this is never more than a convenient balancing item in government budgets. Add up the money in, add up the money out, and the difference you call “Efficiency Savings”. You make all sorts of claims that by being better at running Government, you will be able to save money. “Efficiency Savings” are never credible; but there’s slightly more justification for opposition parties to claim that they’ll be able to introduce them. But if the government of the day, with twelve years of office behind it, claims that it will make some £9bn of efficiency savings, the only rational answer is to ask why they’ve allowed £9bn of inefficient expenditure to continue for so long.
If the running of government was a lot more transparent – if we could examine the books of every department, online, in real time – we could help the government and the opposition make those efficiency savings; it wouldn’t take much sleuthing by some of the more dogged newshounds of the traditional press and the blogosphere to find those egregious departmental expenditures on fruit and flowers or whatever. The population at large is an untapped resource, which for far less money than the National Audit Office costs to run, will be far more effective.