Press Release

Government Efficiencies Should Not Harm Key Services

Session: 2009/2010

Date: Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Reference: F&P 08/09/10

Efficiency savings across the NI public sector can be made without harming essential public services and strategic policy priorities. That is the message from the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Finance and Personnel which launched the findings of its preliminary Inquiry into Public Sector Efficiencies.

Speaking ahead of the Assembly debate, Committee Chairperson, Jennifer McCann MLA, said : “My Committee does not underestimate the scale of the challenge facing the Executive. The recently announced savings and anticipated budgetary reduction for 2011-2014 will require a further efficiency drive.

This must be accompanied by an equally important focus on effectiveness in delivering public services. “It is our view that the Executive should develop a co-ordinated strategy to protect essential frontline services and strategic policy priorities, and avoid crude ‘salami slicing’ of all departmental budgets.

“We believe that there must be more transparency in this process. It is vital that the money saving initiatives are more than just cuts to the quality or level of important services. It is also essential that the impact of these savings is visible and clearly understood by both the Assembly and the public.

“Real public sector efficiency gains in the medium and long term will help us to minimise and manage potential pressures on expenditure in the years ahead.

“My Committee colleagues and I believe that this report is a useful starting point for discussion. It is a positive contribution to the debate about ensuring that the public sector uses public money efficiently.”

The Report contains more than 25 recommendations for the Northern Ireland Executive and the Department of Finance and Personnel.

Notes to Editors:

1. At its meeting on 14 October 2009 the Committee agreed that as part of its role in scrutinizing strategic public finance issues the efficiency programme for NI departments merited further examination and agreed to invite expert witnesses to assist its scrutiny. The Committee agreed that the primary focus of this preliminary inquiry would be on how departments can maximise efficiency savings without affecting priority frontline savings.

2. Key recommendations and conclusions include:

  • The Committee recommends that the Executive develops a co-ordinated strategy for targeting, identifying and realising further efficiencies, which protects essential frontline services and strategic policy priorities and avoids the imposition of pro rata budgetary cuts across all departments.
  • The Committee considers that the efficiency drive will need to be accompanied by an equally important focus on effectiveness in public service delivery. This will necessitate a range of business improvement measures across the public sector, including the consistent application of best practice in governance, management and budgeting, aimed at optimising the allocation and use of resources and raising the performance and effectiveness of public services.
Information about the Committee

The Committee for Finance and Personnel is one of the statutory committees established by the Northern Ireland Assembly on 9 May 2007.

As per paragraph 9 of Strand One of the Belfast Agreement, Statutory Committees have the power to:

  • consider and advise on departmental budgets and annual plans in the context of the overall budget allocation;
  • approve relevant secondary legislation and take the Committee stage of relevant primary legislation;
  • call for persons and papers;
  • initiate inquiries and make reports; and,
  • consider and advise on matters brought to the Committee by its Minister.

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