From: Sir Humphrey Appleby
To: Bernard Woolley
Subject: Economy Drive
Your worries about the forthcoming economy drive are understandable but unfounded. As one who has been through several of these charades, I can assure you that if correctly handled they can in fact strengthen and consolidate our position.
Clearly our first concern must be to ensure that no cuts fall directly on us or our Whitehall colleagues. For this we need the confidence of ministers, so our first response must be to express our unreserved enthusiasm and offer our whole-hearted co operation. We then set about proposing significant economies in the seven areas which do not directly affect Civil Service personnel or resources:
1. People. It is expensive to dismiss established staff, but the recent policy of engaging more and more people on contract and a block on replacing those who have retired make the reductions easiest. If we are having to let too many people go, immediately re-hire them as outside contractors.
2. Purchases. The appetite of schools, hospitals and the armed forces for expensive new toys is insatiable. Cancellation or postponement of new equipment, medication and building work will elicit protests but cause no problems.
3. Contractors. Now that outside companies have taken over so many areas of government work – cleaning, transport, legal and financial advice, redecoration, catering, public relations etc – dramatic reductions here should not be a problem, so long as work for central government departments is not affected.
4. Premises. This is a great opportunity to get rid of some of the expensive real estate currently occupied by the armed forces, and the many unnecessary offices acquired in the regions. Property sales will bring in an agreeable amount of revenue and, if we still need the buildings, sale and lease back arrangements can give a satisfactory illusion of economy.
5. Agencies, inspectorates, regulatory institutions and advisory bodies. A rich harvest here could not only save money but also eliminate some of our most irritating critics.
6. Quangos. We can do without 70% of these; we just have to be careful that abolishing them does not saddle us with extra work, expenditure or exposure to criticism.
7. Local Government. A tighter cap on their expenditure is overdue. It cannot make them more inefficient than they are already.
We can easily demonstrate to ministers that they key to effective planning, negotiating, enforcing and policing these economies lies with the civil service. We shall probably need a modest increase in Whitehall staff and resources to achieve this, and the rewards could be enormous. As a result our departments will emerge from the recession stronger and more secure than before, and better able to serve our ministers when they stop queuing for buses and return to their chauffeur-driven saloons.
(Sir Humphrey Appleby KCB CVO)
© Sir Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, 23 August 2010