Public Services > Central Government

Autumn Statement promises new Major Projects Authority role

David Bicknell Published 05 December 2012

ERG to step up increased efficiency review and 'reshape projects' to maximise value for money

 

Chancellor George Osborne's Autumn Statement has heralded an increased role for the Major Projects Authority, the official documents have revealed.

In a section labelled 'infrastructure', the government says it will "strengthen the mandate of IUK and increase its commercial expertise to boost the delivery of growth enhancing infrastructure projects across government."

As part of its new role, Infrastructure UK (IUK), "together with an enhanced Major Projects Authority, will undertake a detailed assessment of Whitehall's ability to deliver infrastructure, building on existing work. This assessment will be completed by Budget 2013," the papers indicated.

The assessment will be led by former London 2012 chief executive Paul Deighton in his first duty as Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, working closely with Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude.

The documents also indicate that the Efficiency and Reform Group (ERG) will play an increased role in driving further savings. The documents say that, "As part of the process to allocate budgets in 2015-16, the government will accelerate programmes of work to progress reform and drive efficiency and reduce wasteful bureaucracy. Ministers and accounting officers will initiate a review of all projects in their departments to identify further efficiencies. Supported by the ERG, the review will make proposals to drive down budgeted costs or reshape projects in order to maximise value for money."

The government says that spending on frontline services will continue to be prioritised, with departments encouraged to match best practice across government, working with the ERG to identify more cost-effective ways of delivering public services and continuing to clamp down on inefficient spending. The documents argue that if all unprotected departments reduced their administration budgets "in line with the best, they could save £800 million in 2014-15."

The documents cite the recently published "Digital Efficiency Report" which sets out how departments could save approximately £1.2 billion over the remainder of the current spending review period by continuing to move their transactional services online and become "digital by default."

One of those departments is HMRC, and the documents point to the growing role of digital tax services. "The government will invest in expanding the online services that HMRC offers over the next three years. SMEs will be able to access all the tax services they need from a personalised homepage with secure digital messaging. Taxpayers in Self-Assessment will be able to conduct all tax transactions online. Pay As You Earn taxpayers will be able to transact with HMRC online for the first time."

One of the schemes thought to be under threat in the statement was the much undermined Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) energy efficiency scheme. The documents make clear that CRC will be simplified from 2013 and its planned performance league table will be abolished. The government will then review the effectiveness of the CRC in 2016 to determine whether it remains the appropriate policy to meet industrial energy efficiency and carbon reduction objectives.

In the Budget in March, the government committed £50 million in funding to support a second wave of cities in the Government's Urban Broadband Fund. The Autumn Statement revealed that the 'winning cities' in the second wave are: Brighton and Hove, Cambridge, Coventry, Derby, Oxford, Portsmouth, Salford, and York; Aberdeen and Perth; Newport; and Derry/Londonderry in Northern Ireland.

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