Responding to question about the poor quality of civil service IT systems, he said: “I think we’ve got to be honest with ourselves, that of the various promises we made in last year’s Civil Service Reform Plan, some have gone more slowly than others.”
“One of those that’s gone most slowly - in fact, it hasn’t gone anywhere at all - is a modern workplace, and you’re absolutely right, it’s very much a part of the prioritisation for the next year. We’ve got to give that more attention – not just the physical workspace, but also the IT.”
Heywood also said that there would be more progress on sharing services. “A lot more sharing can be going on of all the specialist functions,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense to have 20 or 30 different IT departments and so on.”
“We’ve made huge progress on this in the last year,” he said, adding: “We’re going to go a lot further over the next three or four years”.
The cabinet secretary also spoke about the economy and government spending cuts. “We’ve got three or four more years at least of this period of fiscal retrenchment to go,” he said.
“We’re on track... I think we can pat ourselves on the back for the efficiencies that have been made,” he added, pointing to £10bn of efficiency savings and a further £11.5bn of public spending savings found in the “remarkably smooth” Spending Review last week.
Heywood said there will be a "20-year generational battle to rebalance the economy in ways that we haven't seen for many decades."
He said the government wants to see "less reliance on consumption growth fuelled by debt and more focus on investment and on net exports; a geographical rebalancing as well, away from the South-East and London being the most prosperous parts. Of course, we want prosperity continuing here, but we need to see that rebalanced across the whole of the United Kingdom so that even the most deprived parts see prosperity; and a sectoral rebalancing away from financial services and professional services more generally, and a revival of manufacturing."
The cabinet secretary’s speech was reported by the Daily Telegraph on Wednesday, which presented the 20-year timeline as one to "beef up" the economy, when in fact Heywood said that battle was about "rebalancing" it. The newspaper also reported him as saying: “Five years on from the bottom of the recession we have still not even near recovered all the output we lost in that terribly deep recession that we suffered in 2007-08... Those are really daunting numbers that just show the size of the challenge; there is no alternative.”
In fact, Heywood said: “Those are really daunting numbers that just show the size of the challenge. It's not all bad, of course: some quite remarkable things have happened in the economy over the last five years.”
See CSW’s report from the event: Heywood praises ‘step change’ in civil service productivity.
Also watch the full video below: