Accountant squad to target public sector

Private-sector accountancy expertise has been drafted in to help the public sector stamp out wastage under a new government initiative headed by Treasury chief secretary Alan Milburn.

Dubbed the ‘Magnificent Seven’ by Treasury officials, the team has been asked to identify potential savings or productivity improvements in areas such as local authority housing, hospital out-patient services and state education.

The group will include Audit Commission controller Andrew Foster; English ICA president and KPMG partner Dame Sheila Masters; GEC finance director John Mayo; Pearson FD John Makinson; Clare Spottiswoode of management consultants PA Consulting; John Dowdy of McKinsey’s and Byron Grote, executive vice-president of BP Amoco.

Reporting to a cabinet committee chaired by chancellor Gordon Brown, the panel’s members have been assigned specific areas to investigate with the ultimate goal of achieving efficiency savings of £8bn a year by 2001-2002. Any savings will be reinvested in public services.

The areas to be investigated are housing repairs, customer service, performance incentives, outpatient performance in the NHS, information flows in schools and colleges, efficiency in the police force , defence logistics and performance management in the DTI.

The police were widely criticised for its handling of last month’s City riots.

The panel’s findings are expected to be passed to the government within six months.

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