Opponents include the Public and Commercial Services Union and the
Conservative party, namely shadow chancellor George Osborne. Both have slammed
the amount of money spent principally on external management consultants.
In their eyes, the government is supposed to be saving cash not dishing it
out and, in the words of PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, ‘lining the
pockets of faceless consultants’. Their second cause of consternation relates to
the tens of thousands of civil servants who face the axe.
The Office of Government Commerce has rightly battled back and refuted claims
that it is needlessly wasting taxpayers hard-earned notes.
What many detractors fail to realise is that the money spent year on year is
not a major drain on government coffers. It is often needed to fix the cracks,
instead of allowing them to widen causing huge long-term problems.
The money is necessary, not only to maintain a healthy balance within the
consultancy industry, but also to give consultants enough time to produce a
stable and solid future strategy designed to reduce job numbers gradually. It is
also needed to achieve the gigantic £21.5bn in savings – a return on investment
that can then be fairly spread across departments that desperately need more
Finally, it confirms that consultants are a key part of government thinking,
not only today but tomorrow. If it wasn’t for their expertise and knowledge,
Whitehall’s vast multi-departmental machine would cease to function properly and
improving departments would begin to weaken.
Take all those points into consideration and the hiring of an additional set
of external experts for a meagre two years is nothing.
Consultancy bills are not soaring – if £9m is spent to shore up the
effectiveness of government then Whitehall has been given an absolute bargain.