Belfast Telegraph

Taxpayers aren't getting value for money, says CBI

By Michael McHugh

Taxpayers are not getting value for money from public investment, according to business lobby group the CBI.

The private sector has achieved better outcomes with less resources amid fierce competition, said CBI chairman Terence Brannigan after meeting Finance Minister Sammy Wilson yesterday.

The CBI's views come less than a week before Chancellor George Osborne delivers an emergency Budget that will include measures to cut public spending and will likely herald a period of reduced budgets for Stormont departments.

It also follows on from a series of hard-hitting economic reports, including one from University of Ulster economist Mike Smyth which warned the Executive that the 'free ride' Northern Ireland has got from Westminster is over.

Mr Brannigan said that rethinking jobs, using technology more effectively and managing performance better are among the ways the public sector could improve.

He said: "Despite the huge amounts of investment poured into the public sector over the last decade, taxpayers and ratepayers are not getting value for money.

"Making the necessary changes will be challenging but it can be done."

The business group boss said that independent companies operating in the public sector were already achieving good results by working with staff to drive up productivity, improve services, and identify practical ways to save time and money.

"The private sector have been achieving better outcomes with less resources, as globalisation and intense competition impacted on company activities.

"Companies have had to change radically to survive," he warned.

During the meeting with the minister the CBI said the ministerial Executive should extend the scope of the Efficiency Review Panel announced last year to undertake more fundamental scrutiny of all departmental expenditure.

Mr Brannigan added: "We stressed the importance of the Executive taking a strategic view of the public expenditure situation, and the need to avoid salami slicing of departmental budgets which is likely to end up in cuts in front line services.

"It is vital that we continue to support the weak economic recovery that is under way and avoid cutting public expenditure in areas which will damage the economic recovery and job opportunities."