I’ve referred previously to the confidence trick which the words ‘efficiency savings’ actually represent. Whilst all organisations always have some potential to improve their efficiency, unless the savings are specifically identified, an imposed target for efficiency savings is merely a euphemism for a budget cut. In many cases it will result in cuts to services in one way or another. Even if those ‘savings’ are re-invested elsewhere in the same organisation, arbitrarily imposed ‘efficiency savings’ are still cuts in the parts of the organisation where they apply.
There was a spat between the parties this week on the subject. Labour, who are currently implementing an arbitrary requirement for a 3% level of ‘savings’ in the NHS, the Lib Dems, who want a further 3% ‘savings’, and Plaid, who want a further 4% of ‘savings’, ganged up on the Tories who want a further 14% of ‘savings’ with all three claiming that the Tories’ proposal amounts to a vicious cut to budgets. All of the figures seem to have been plucked from the air, and all of them seem to be saying that they wouldn’t cut the overall total budget; they’d simply redirect the money elsewhere in the NHS.But if they’re all going to pull arbitrary figures out of the air, there is no way of knowing whether any of them are right. And there’s an argument which says that if you’re going to do that, you may as well be ambitious about it. Especially if you have zero expectation of having to deliver.