Page last updated at 00:15 GMT, Thursday, 25 March 2010

Departments pledge to cut costs by billions

Budget 2010
Details of the cuts were not in the Budget speech

The Department of Health says it is to make cuts of £4.35bn over three years in an "efficiency savings" drive.

It is the biggest contribution to £11bn of government savings announced in last year's pre-Budget report.

The Ministry of Defence will cut costs by £700m, education by £1.1bn and work and pensions by £500m.

They say they can do so by moving civil servants out of London, reducing staff sickness and use of consultants but the Tories say it is a "bogus argument".

Some departments, such as health and children, schools and families, will reinvest the savings into "front line" services.

Job cuts

But the BBC's political editor Nick Robinson said that while the government described them as "efficiency savings" - they would mean real cuts in real jobs which had not yet been specified.

Ministers had already announced plans to make £11bn of savings by 2012-13 but each department has been spelling out how much they will contribute to that total.

The health service in England faces making the biggest cuts - £4.35bn, which it says can be achieved through procurement, savings in its national IT programme, energy efficiency, better use of property and reducing staff sick leave, something it says alone could save £555m.

Work & Pensions - £500m
Justice - £343m
Legal aid and courts - £360m
Business - £300m
Treasury - £261m
Transport - £90m
Highways - £90m
Home Office - £350m
Police - £346m
Communities - £200m
Cabinet Office - £25m
Defence - £700m
Health - £4.35bn
Education - £550m
Foreign Office - £50m

Health Secretary Andy Burnham said that "tough efficiency savings" would allow his department to "continue to increase real-terms resources available for patient care year-by-year".

And Work and Pensions Secretary Yvette Cooper told the BBC: "There are a series of areas within the NHS budget where you can make additional savings, for example on IT and so on, whilst at the same time protecting the front line services - the doctors, the nurses."

But Lib Dem Treasury spokesman Vince Cable told the BBC: "What they are saying is this is all about efficiency. Well if it's inefficient why have they put up with it for 10 years? And how do you make nurses not be ill?... It's a great aspiration but how on earth do you make these things happen?

"It's largely phoney, it doesn't spell out honestly what the real choices are that have to be made in public spending."

The Department for Children, Schools and Families says it will make savings of £1.1bn by saving on teacher training bursaries, ending start-up funding for services like breakfast clubs and through "efficiencies" in quangos.

Other departments broadly pledged to make savings through reducing the cost of procurement, streamlining "back office" work, reducing the use of consultants, energy savings and reducing property costs.

Other savings announced include £700m from the Ministry of Defence, £500m from the Department of Work and Pensions, £343m from the Ministry of Justice, £300m from the Department for Business and £194m from Defra.

The Home Office says it will make £350m savings through "operational productivity" at the UK Border Agency, reducing consultants and spending on IT.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson told the BBC it would not mean fewer police on the streets: "All warranted officers and PCSOs, who are doing such a good job on neighbourhood policing, that's ring fenced."

The Conservatives said that without a spending review, ministers could not accurately measure any savings after 2011.

Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Philip Hammond told the BBC the exercise was "no substitute for a proper comprehensive spending review" which would set out departments' spending totals over three years.

"What we do know is that the cuts we are talking about here which add up to about £11bn are about a third of the total cuts that are required over the period.

"There is another £20bn of cuts that have not been explained at all... We've got nowhere near to understanding where Labour will deliver these spending cuts. This is a bogus exercise."

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