That\’s what stings, the miserable teenieness of the target they set themselves.
Thousands of jobs in Whitehall, local government and quangos are set to be lost in the move towards big savings in "back office" functions, IT programmes and finance.
It is the clearest sign yet that the government plans a tough spending squeeze which will impact heavily on big Whitehall departments and government agencies for several years. Only "front line" services such as education will have their future funding protected.
Ministers have already signalled they want to see £5 billion-worth of efficiency savings by 2011/12. In Wednesday\’s Budget, Mr Darling will say this total should be extended by a further £10 billion over the following three years.
Critics are likely to question whether the Chancellor\’s pledges will ever become a reality given Whitehall\’s failure to meet previous efficiency targets.
£10 billion is some 1.5% of the total budget. They\’re looking to get that, over three years, out of increasing efficiency?
A private sector business would laugh at the paucity of that vision. Productivity in general cranks up at between 1 and 2% a year. Of course, it\’s not evenly spread, it\’s not that each and every task in hte land is done that more efficiently each and every year. It\’s a bit more lumpy than that.
But in an organisation as big as government the lumps smooth out and it\’s entirely justifiable for us to ask that govt becomes efficient at the same rate that productivity rises.
That 1 or 2% per year. That £10 billion should not be a multi-year aspiration, it should be the minimum year on year improvement that any half decent manager would expect.
If we get steadily more productive at providing food, banking services, cars, telecoms and all the rest, as we do, why shouldn\’t we be getting steadily more productive at delivering government services?