HC Deb 12 July 1984 vol 63 cc618-9W
Mr. Maples

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what steps have been taken by his Department since May 1979 to improve its efficiency; what has been the result; what further steps are currently being taken to improve efficiency; what the results are expected to be; and what output criteria have been developed by his Department to help measure its efficiency.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

[pursuant to his reply, 9 July 1984, c. 383]: I constantly encourage the staff of my Department to seek ways of improving efficiency. Since 1979, eight efficiency scrutinies have been carried out in the Welsh Office, the most recent being a study of the generation and handling of paper in the Department.

In addition, a critical review of the organisation, functions, tasks and priorities of the whole Department was carried out during the period June 1981 to July 1983.

These reviews complemented the ongoing activities of the staff inspectors and management services officers, whose prime objective is to improve efficiency. The introduction of new office technology has also led to efficiency gains, and this programme is proceeding at a constantly increasing pace; the annual spend on new technology has increased from £127,000 in 1980–81 to £415,000 in the current financial year.

As a result of these measures the permanent staff of my Department has been reduced by 15.6 per cent., from 2,613 whole-time equivalents to 2,206½ during the period 1 May 1979 to 1 June 1984. But staff numbers are not the only measure of efficiency, and during that period my Department has taken a number of important initiatives, for example, with the development of an all-Wales strategy for the care of mentally handicapped people, while at the same time striving to give a quicker and better service to public bodies, business firms and all others with whom it comes into contact.

The departmental running costs (excluding accommodation costs, where the basis of charging has altered in period in question) have been as follows:

1981–82 1982–83 1983–84
Cash 35,491 35,350 37,218
Cost Terms* 35,491 33,087 33,269
* Using gross domestic product deflator with 1981–82 as base.

I have treated each under secretary group in my Department as a key "business", which will be required to formulate its objectives. I intend to concentrate this year on the largest "business" in terms of Vote expenditure (Health) and the largest in terms of staff numbers and running costs (Agriculture). The health group is undergoing a thorough review in the follow up to the Griffiths report, and a director of the National Health Service in Wales, responsible for the management of the service, is to be appointed. The agriculture group is currently the subject of a major staff inspection.

An initial set of statistical indicators has been developed and published for the Health Service in Wales, discussions with the local authority associations about measures and indicators for their services have begun and performance targets have been established for the Welsh water authority. The search for better measures and indicators and work on refining those which exist will continue.

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