9 April 2010 | Lindsay Clark
The Conservatives would cut use of agency staff and leave vacant back-office jobs unfilled to save money if they came to power.
Sir Peter Gershon, who is now an adviser to the Tories on government efficiency, told the Financial Times that better control of recruitment, including reducing use of agency staff and not filling back-office vacancies, could save up to £2 billion in 2010-11. The report is part of further details released by the party today to outline how they plan to create public sector efficiency savings beyond those already announced by Labour.
Conservative leader David Cameron told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: “It’s not talking about people losing their jobs, it’s talking about not filling vacancies as they arise. The exact balance between things like procurement, recruitment and IT should be decided calmly and reasonably with the Treasury if we are elected on 6 May.”
One expert suggested this could reduce the public sector headcount by between 20,000 and 40,000. The Conservatives could not say whether “back-office posts” included purchasing jobs.
Gershon also said renegotiating contracts with suppliers of goods and services – without “beating them up on price” – could save about £3 billion. A cut in IT spending could produce a saving of between £2 billion and £4 billion, he said.
Labour, which has promised an annual saving of £11 billion, has disputed the Conservative party figures. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has dismissed them as a “myth”.
The Tories said they would consult on these figures if they were elected.
Procurement experts told SM renegotiating deals could be difficult because they are governed by European procurement law and may need to be retendered. They questioned why suppliers would be interested in reducing prices and whether shareholders would allow it.