I’ve referred to the question of “efficiency savings” in the past. It’s invariably a political euphemism for “budget cuts”, because it’s a top-down exercise telling people what they must save rather than a bottom-up exercise based on real identified savings. I’ve also previously referred to a report by the Auditor General, which highlighted concerns that 'efficiency savings' have all too often resulted in cuts to services rather than any real improvement in efficiency, and to a report which identified that one of the outsourcing companies more honestly explained how efficiency savings wouldn’t affect profits, because they’d just cut the services.
It’s not that I don’t believe that large organisations can always find ways of running themselves more efficiently – I’m convinced that they can. (Whether that’s always a good thing or not is another question – getting the cheapest supplies from elsewhere may look like ‘efficiency’ but may not be the best thing for the local economy.) It’s more that I don’t believe that simply imposing cuts to budgets and telling managers to do more with less will achieve that aim without affecting services in any way. To pretend that it will is to be blind to the way things will actually happen as a consequence of demanding such savings.It was disappointing this week to see Plaid joining the “efficiency savings” bandwagon. For sure, assuming efficiency savings of £300 million makes the figures add up; but it doesn’t make them actually happen. One person’s £300 million of unidentified savings is another person’s £300 million of budget cuts. I can’t really blame Plaid’s opponents for jumping on the figure in the way that they have (although it’s totally disingenuous from parties who’ve done exactly the same on a regular basis); and I find Plaid’s defence of the figure no more convincing than the arguments put forward by other parties in the past. In a manifesto which contains many good things (and I’ll probably come back to manifestos when I’ve had time to read and digest them), it’s an unfortunate hole to have dug.