Ministers will need to make a “sustained political commitment” if radical efficiency savings are to be wrung from the delivery of locally delivered public services.
Giving evidence to the Commons Treasury sub-committee, John Sibson, government and public sector leader at consultants PriceWaterhouse Coopers, said ministers would need to demonstrate willpower if they wanted to see standardisation and simplification between local organisations within an area.
Asked by MP Sally Keeble (Lab) about the inefficiencies of the two-tier system in local government, Mr Sibson said: “You will need to simplify and standardise processes, and certainly in locally delivered services you will need collaboration between different organisations within an area across organisational boundaries.
“That requires huge political will. And if I may say so, although big savings have been made as a result of previous efficiency processes, this has never been a matter of collective political will right at the top of the agenda.
The Operational Efficiency Programme, unveiled at the Budget, estimated £6.1bn could come from procurement savings.
But Mr Sibson claimed his organisation estimated the savings from procurement at being between £9bn and £23bn.
“The government looked at collaboration between public buyers to make the efficiency savings,” he explained. “We looked at actually managing demand within individual buying organisations.”
Chancellor Alistair Darling set the public sector an efficiency target of £9bn to be met between 2010-11 and 2012-13.
But John Hawksworth, PWC’s head of macroeconomics, said the full benefits of efficiency measures could take up to eight years to appear.