The government must not extend its Gershon public service efficiency programme until the impact of current savings has been reviewed, union leaders said yesterday.
The Treasury said last year that it was developing a more ambitious value for money programme for this year’s comprehensive spending review but a TUC submission to the review said efficiency savings were leading to cuts in services to some of the most vulnerable members of society.
Councils were required to make 2.5% annual efficiency savings from 2005-8 under the Gershon programme, and last year the Treasury said from 2008 onwards they would have to make 3% annual savings.
However, the TUC submission said the goal of “going beyond Gershon” may be a euphemistic way of describing widespread budget cuts and called for a study to examine the impact of existing efficiencies on productivity, service quality and sustainability.
The paper also called for a £4.7bn investment in child benefit and child tax credit to help the government reach its 2010 target of halving the rate of child poverty. And it said that the new annual budget of the new Commission on Equality and Human Rights may have to be extended from the proposed £70m to £120m as it will take on wider responsibilities than predecessor bodies, the Commission for Racial Equality Disability Rights Commission and the Equal Opportunities Commission equality bodies.
The submission said the government must set aside money to help local authorities and other public sector bodies meet gender equality pay settlements.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said a “toxic cocktail of deferred pay, service cuts, privatisation and endless reorganisation” had produced a “crisis of commitment and morale” in public services.