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Public sector reform
Public service reform must accelerate at a time of increasing pressure on public spending, John Swinney said yesterday.
At a conference in Edinburgh, the Finance Secretary said that public sector reform is 'inescapable' in a changing financial climate. He added that innovation and efficiency - and not restructuring local authority boundaries - are crucial to provide high quality public services in a recession.
John Swinney said:
"We are dealing with a tight financial climate, a squeeze on public spending - reflected by the worst settlement for the Scottish Government since devolution - and the impact of the global downturn.
"These circumstances intensify our resolve. Public sector reform is inescapable and the Government will deliver that. This approach is within the context of our purpose of increasing sustainable economic growth.
"The challenges Scotland faces will not be solved by redrawing maps, wholesale restructuring or slashing jobs in public services. Our focus on simplifying the public sector landscape, injecting a new focus on outcomes and working constructively with our public sector partners will bear the best results.
"We will substantially reduce the number of public bodies by 25 per cent to deliver more proportionate and focussed public services fit for a country of five million people. This is all the more important as we face potential cuts to Scotland's budget of £500 million a year and the impact of the global downturn.
"Our efficiency programme has an increasing two per cent target to deliver savings of £1.6 billion in 2010-11 which will be reinvested to improve public services. But efficiency must go hand in hand with a more enterprising and empowering culture.
"We have stepped back from micromanagement of councils and are letting them get on with the job. Now greater innovation is required - within and between councils, Government and all parts of the public sector - to share services and get best value for the public pound. That is already happening and there must and will be more.
"For instance, eProcurement Scotland, one of the most comprehensive and successful eGovernment initiatives in the world, delivers cost savings and the most efficient use of resources. Last year, £2.47 billion was spent through eProcurement Scotland, around 25 per cent of the total spend in the public sector procurement bill.
"The new Recruitment Portal for Local Government is an innovative new tool which all councils have signed up to - in its first eight months it has seen 80,000 people apply for nearly 4,000 council jobs and £6 million of savings are expected by the end of the first full year of operation. And a collaboration of blue light services to purchase, operate and maintain their fleet of vehicles more effectively is on course to deliver at least £4 million savings a year.
"These are exactly the kinds of innovative projects that I am encouraging - freeing up staff resource, saving taxpayers money and giving us the foundations for lasting, high quality and responsive public services."
The Scottish Government is committed to simplifying the public sector landscape to ensure that it is simpler, sharper and easier to navigate by bringing together organisations with similar skills, expertise and processes.
The Scottish Government has published a comprehensive baseline list of 199 national public sector organisations and set out proposals as part of the Simplification Programme to reduce this number by 25 per cent by 2011.
This number has already reduced to 165 and further reductions will be delivered through the Public Services Reform Bill and the Children's Hearings Bill. The Simplification Programme is on track to deliver and exceed an organisational reduction across Scotland's public sector by 2011.