In the Scottish Parliament today giving oral evidence to the Finance Committee on budget strategy. Specifically, the Committee is considering what preparation should be underway now by the public sector to ensure the efficient delivery of public services within a period of tightening public expenditure.
Not a lot of common ground in this session with some robust exchanges. The Scottish Chambers of Commerce and the CBI drumming up business for their members by calling for the wholesale privatisation of public services. The STUC and I setting out a very different strategy based on our alternative budget.
The first session consisted of a video conference with Canadian finance officials on their experience of managing budget cuts. Interestingly they confirmed that there was little evidence that investment in top down efficiency exercises delivered downstream savings. Just what our research and experience of shared services has found.
The business leaders churned out their usual array of assertions about public service reform with little evidence to back any of it up. We highlighted different approaches based on meaningful involvement of public service staff, rather than the latest management speak promoted by management consultants.
Questions from MSPs covered a range of issues from public sector pay and pensions to the Council Tax freeze. If there was any common ground it was that efficiency savings alone will not cut the budget deficit. More radical solutions are required and our view that involves fairer taxation, clamping down on tax avoidance, and cutting real waste including PPP, Trident, ID Cards and the use of management consultants.