Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 24 September 2014

PM pledge over 'culture of excess'

Gordon Brown has announced cuts in Government spending
The Prime Minister answers questions after his Smarter Government speech
The Prime Minister said big bonuses would in future require ministerial approval

Moves to curb a "culture of excess" in public sector pay were unveiled by Gordon Brown as part of a bid to slash £12 billion from spending over the next four years.

The Prime Minister has ordered a review of senior pay, required ministerial approval for £150,000-plus salaries and threatened to "name and shame" the worst offenders.

He launched his assault as the Government published details of where it hopes to find another £3 billion of savings on top of those promised in the last Budget.

Swingeing cuts to spending on consultants and publicity, axing or merging 123 quangos and moving more staff out of London were all in the "Smarter Government" report. Mr Brown also suggested money would be found by forcing people to access services online - saying millions more pounds would be put into securing UK-wide internet access.

And Health Secretary Andy Burnham confirmed £600 million would be found by cancelling some elements of the NHS IT project.

The stark messages came ahead of Wednesday's Pre-Budget Report in which Chancellor Alistair Darling will set out his plan to steer the country out of economic trouble. He is expected to confirm the UK's spiralling deficit will top £175 billion this year, the combined effect of a costly fiscal stimulus and plummeting tax receipts.

The Tories ridiculed the efficiency proposals, saying they had all been announced before and accusing the Government of failing to implement previous cost-cutting promises. They trumpeted the recruitment of several former Government efficiency advisers to their own taskforce looking at how to cut the cost of running Whitehall.

Labour also came under fire from civil service union leaders, who accused ministers of launching a "bidding war" on who could cut the most, warning that public services would suffer. And charities warned older people could be frozen out of public services if they were prevented from accessing them by telephone or post - measures the PM said could save £400 million.

In a speech to launch the cost-savings report, Mr Brown said salaries above £150,000 and £50,000-plus bonuses would in future require Treasury ministerial approval. And he said all equivalent public-sector salaries outside direct Government control would have to be publicly justified by the bodies involved, warning some had "lost touch with...reality".

"This culture of excess must change and will change," he said.

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