Civil service job cuts 'will not deliver efficiency'

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The Independent Online

The head of Britain's largest civil service union yesterday launched a scathing attack on the Government for turning the civil service into a "political football" as a fresh row broke out over controversial plans to axe 100,000 jobs.

The head of Britain's largest civil service union yesterday launched a scathing attack on the Government for turning the civil service into a "political football" as a fresh row broke out over controversial plans to axe 100,000 jobs.

Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, told business leaders that the Government was engaged in a "Dutch auction" with the Conservatives over how many jobs could be cut. Speaking at a panel discussion at the CBI conference, Mr Serwotka clashed with the head of Revenue and Customs over how to make efficiency savings.

The Government has ordered Whitehall departments to find 100,000 job cuts in back office staff to help fund continued investment in frontline services such as health and education. But Mr Serwotka said the 100,000 redundancies would only pay for 6 per cent of the savings that Sir Peter Gershon, who carried out the report for the Government, believes can be achieved. "This nails the lie about delivering efficiency - it is just about head count," he said. Last Friday Mr Serwotka led a strike of PCS workers covering a range of civil service activities from museum curators to immigration officials in protest at the job cuts.

David Varney, the chairman of the newly merged Inland Revenue and Customs & Excise, said changes in technology meant some jobs were being replaced with more rewarding ones.

He admitted he could not rule out the possibility that some of the 12,500 jobs being cut through a merger of Customs and Inland Revenue departments would be compulsory. "It is inconceivable that we can start with the premise that there has to be a fixed labour supply doing what it has always done," he said. "That would make people extremely reluctant to take anyone on because they would create an obligation for life."

He said technology was making widespread changes in the way that his department operated, citing the one million people who filed their tax return online.

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