Responding to COVID-19: insight, support and guidance
By Mike Thatcher, Public Finance, at the Annual CIPFA Conference, Liverpool.
The head of the civil service told the conference that the involvement of CIPFA members will be crucial to maintaining public services as the spending cuts begin to bite.
"It's a long time since I completed my CIPFA qualification and a lot has changed since then, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the vital role that you play in ensuring effective and efficient delivery of public services," Sir Bob Kerslake said.
"This would be important at any time but it is even more so in the extraordinary times that we are now living in."
He pointed to figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility showing that the UK economy is now 11% smaller than in 2007 and reminded delegates that the austerity programme would carry on until at least 2016/17.
"Even for someone who is as long in the tooth as I am, a period in which real wealth reduces and we face a decade of very tough spending decisions is quite unprecedented. It tests almost every assumption that we have grown used to."
Last month, Kerslake published a civil service reform plan including proposals to make it easier to sack under-performing mandarins and for ministers to have the power to decide who runs departments.
Kerslake said that the UK now had its smallest civil service since the Second World War and that, over this Parliament, numbers would reduce by almost a quarter.
He revealed that the issue of civil service job losses had led to some animated conversations with Steve Hilton, the prime minister’s former chief strategy adviser.
"I am one of the small band of people who have had Steve Hilton storm out of a room. In fact, he didn’t just slam the first door, he slammed the second one as well – so it was quite an exciting event."