Lord Sugar says government has twice as many civil servants as it needs

May 03, 2011 6:37 PM

Labour peer and star of television series The Apprentice, Baron Sugar of Clapton, told the Radio Times that the Civil Service has twice as many staff as it needs to do the job compared to what it would need it if employed private sector working practices. He also suggested the government could save £1 billion annually in procurement with a more hard-nosed approach. The claims signal a hardening consensus on the scale of waste in government following Sir Philip Green’s recent Efficiency Review and evidence given by Lord (Digby) Jones to the parliamentary Public Administration Committee that only half of civil servants are needed. Lord Sugar said:
“They employ God knows how many million civil servants, and if you spent the time that I spent in Whitehall, you do have to ask yourself sometimes what half of them are doing. When I compare it to my commercial organisation, we have people who multi-task, and if you applied that multi-tasking philosophy within the civil service you would cut the labour force by half”

Most people who have had dealings with the public sector can attest to this. Co-ordinators, officers and facilitators abound and managers receive very little reward for cutting back waste. Far easier to let things tick over as they are while the world changes around them. And Lord Sugar’s comments echo those of Lord (Digby) Jones in back in 2009:
“The civil service, which is honest, stuffed full of decent people who work hard, but frankly the job could be done with half as many. It could be more productive, more efficient, it could deliver a lot more value for money for the taxpayer. And the levers of change, the ability to effect change, are so rare because of the culture. I was amazed, quite frankly, at how many people deserved the sack and yet that was the one threat that they never ever worked under, because it doesn't exist as long as they have not been criminal or whatever”

[caption id="attachment_34365" align="alignright" width="200" caption="£73, please"][/caption]

It’s not just overstaffing in Civil Service offices where taxpayers are having to pay far more than they need to. Lord Sugar also suggested Sir Terry Leahy (of Tesco fame) and Sir Stuart Rose (of Marks & Spencer) ought to be hired to improve purchasing.
“If you look at Philip Green’s Efficiency Review, he uncovered things like one department paying £73 for a box of paper that you can go into a shop and pay £8 for”

Lords Sugar and Jones are right. Taxpayers deserve a better deal. Our recent proposals to the government for HR Transparency in local government should be adopted in national government too, so people can scrutinise what officials do and how many of them are being employed to do it. Trimming back the waste in government requires bold political leadership and robust management to make the tough decisions which will be unpopular with those whose jobs waste taxpayers’ money. But it also needs new systems that provide an intrinsic deterrent to waste building up over time in future. Overhauling the gold-plated redundancy deals which mean officials are kept on at full salary with nothing to do because it is cheaper than making them redundant, and HR Transparency - publishing online job descriptions and structure charts for all civil servants would be great first steps in that direction.Labour peer and star of television series The Apprentice, Baron Sugar of Clapton, told the Radio Times that the Civil Service has twice as many staff as it needs to do the job compared to what it would need it if employed private sector working practices. He also suggested the government could save £1 billion annually in procurement with a more hard-nosed approach. The claims signal a hardening consensus on the scale of waste in government following Sir Philip Green’s recent Efficiency Review and evidence given by Lord (Digby) Jones to the parliamentary Public Administration Committee that only half of civil servants are needed. Lord Sugar said:
“They employ God knows how many million civil servants, and if you spent the time that I spent in Whitehall, you do have to ask yourself sometimes what half of them are doing. When I compare it to my commercial organisation, we have people who multi-task, and if you applied that multi-tasking philosophy within the civil service you would cut the labour force by half”

Most people who have had dealings with the public sector can attest to this. Co-ordinators, officers and facilitators abound and managers receive very little reward for cutting back waste. Far easier to let things tick over as they are while the world changes around them. And Lord Sugar’s comments echo those of Lord (Digby) Jones in back in 2009:
“The civil service, which is honest, stuffed full of decent people who work hard, but frankly the job could be done with half as many. It could be more productive, more efficient, it could deliver a lot more value for money for the taxpayer. And the levers of change, the ability to effect change, are so rare because of the culture. I was amazed, quite frankly, at how many people deserved the sack and yet that was the one threat that they never ever worked under, because it doesn't exist as long as they have not been criminal or whatever”

[caption id="attachment_34365" align="alignright" width="200" caption="£73, please"][/caption]

It’s not just overstaffing in Civil Service offices where taxpayers are having to pay far more than they need to. Lord Sugar also suggested Sir Terry Leahy (of Tesco fame) and Sir Stuart Rose (of Marks & Spencer) ought to be hired to improve purchasing.
“If you look at Philip Green’s Efficiency Review, he uncovered things like one department paying £73 for a box of paper that you can go into a shop and pay £8 for”

Lords Sugar and Jones are right. Taxpayers deserve a better deal. Our recent proposals to the government for HR Transparency in local government should be adopted in national government too, so people can scrutinise what officials do and how many of them are being employed to do it. Trimming back the waste in government requires bold political leadership and robust management to make the tough decisions which will be unpopular with those whose jobs waste taxpayers’ money. But it also needs new systems that provide an intrinsic deterrent to waste building up over time in future. Overhauling the gold-plated redundancy deals which mean officials are kept on at full salary with nothing to do because it is cheaper than making them redundant, and HR Transparency - publishing online job descriptions and structure charts for all civil servants would be great first steps in that direction.

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