Friday, July 14, 2006

Gershon Delusion Update- 2

Latest Gershon staff cuts

As regular waste watchers will know, Gordo's Gershon efficiency programme is a particularly bad joke (for background see previous posts here, here, here, here and here). To all intents and purposes most of the savings do not exist, and those that do are being achieved only at the cost of worse services- including ballooning tax and benefit fraud.

But Gordo persists in his belief, and he's just given us his latest scorecard. Since his last update in the Budget, he reckons the "savings" have leaped from £6.4bn pa to £9.8bn pa, an extraordinary claim for just three months. And stung by widespread criticism- including from the National Audit Office- of the lack of detail in previous reports, he's treated us to six whole pages of "stuff".

The trouble is, his "stuff" doesn't really support his claims. Most of the examples he gives are mere shrapnel in terms of size (eg online booking of driving tests, reckoned to save £1.4m pa). And most of the bigger examples actually compound savings over many years (eg £1bn supposedly saved on a the new contract for Merlin military helicopters is spread over 25 years).

It's all pretty desperate, and even he's forced to admit the figures are "currently being subject to verification and validation". You bet.

As for his staff cuts, the table above claims net cuts are now 36,280, up from 33,237 quoted in Budget, so supposedly more than half way to his 70,000 target by 2007-08. But as we've noted before, these figures have not been fully audited by the NAO, and we know for example that DWP temps are not included. So...

Anyway, with tax and benefit fraud now spinning out of control, even G must be wondering about the wisdom of slashing staff at DWP and HMRC. If things are this bad with just the 22,000 combined cuts so far, what are they going to be like if he presses on with his target cut of 43,500 by 2007-08? Let alone his planned further cuts of 5% pa for ever thereafter. Tax revenue could take a serious whack.

Gershon delusion was funny when it started. We all fell about.

But the joke's wearing just the teensiest bit thin.

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