There was a rather interesting take on the effectiveness and value of the "efficiency" savings being implemented by government organs, such as HMRC, in yesterday's Guardian.
In effect the Guardian reasons that costs are not being saved, but are being swept under the carpet and being passed on to others attempt to clean up the less left by a newly "efficient" and "cost effective" government organ:
"Look at the "cost savings" made at the Department for Work and Pensions and HM Revenue & Customs. Both these flagships of public-sector reform have been subject to top-down makeovers along approved factory lines. Dumbed-down "front offices" sort and feed incoming cases to specialised processing sections in the "back office" in the belief that these mass-production techniques will cut the unit cost of transactions and harvest economies of scale.
Even in manufacturing, economies of scale lost their grail-like allure when the Japanese discovered how to make small quantities of different, high-quality goods cheaply. In services the case is at best unproven (banks, anyone?), and so far the successes in shared services are few and far between. But even if they do make transactions cheaper, that's irrelevant if from the citizen's point of view the service is worse, requiring more transactions to put right. And it takes no account of the disbenefits of the efficiency measures elsewhere in the system.
Thus the HMRC and DWP cost savings recorded in official figures reappear, with interest, in the workloads of harassed local councils, housing associations, police, courts and advice agencies. They have to pick up the pieces left by the failure of HMRC and DWP's demoralised staff and fragmented processes to provide an acceptable (rather than cheap) tax and benefit service.
Much of the work of the UK's voluntary advice organisations now consists of dealing with mistakes affecting the most vulnerable in society perpetrated by New Labour's efficiency flagships."
Tax does have to be taxing.
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