§ 45. Mr. Hanley
asked the Secretary of State for Employment what action he is taking to secure better value for money from his Department's budget.
§ Mr. Tom King
I lose no opportunity to stress the importance I attach to securing the best possible value for money from available resources. My colleagues and I have this criteria in mind in all the decisions which we make about the Department's activities.
Reviews and scrutinies in the Department of Employment Group have made over 4,500 staff savings since 1979, including 1,350 following a study of the payment of benefits to unemployed people. The programme of scrutinies will continue.
Improvements in efficiency have contributed to a reduction in MSC permanent staff from 25,300 in April 1979 to 20,800 now, and further reductions will be made in the next few years particularly as a result of recently approved plans to improve the cost-effectiveness of the public employment service while increasing the number of jobcentres. The numbers of people trained under the Commission's adult training programmes will be doubled, within existing resources, by concentrating on more cost-effective and flexible forms of provision. The skillcentre training agency has operated as a trading account since April 1984 and is charged with covering all its costs from receipts. The professional and executive recruitment service also now operates on a self-financing basis.
I expect increased efficiency to yield significant savings of over 2,000 posts by 1988 following the planned installation of visual display units in unemployment benefit offices. There has already been a substantial improvement in the ratio of claimants to staff in the unemployment benefit service, from 85:1 in 1979–80 to 114:1 in 1983–84.
The top management review systems now operating in all parts of the Department of Employment group under the financial management initiative will be an important means of setting targets relevant to better value for money. The Manpower Services Commission has recently published an account of its top management review 488W process in 1984, and I expect to issue a report this month which will describe the activities of the Department's senior management group in 1984.