Sir Ian Cheshire: scale of Spending Review cuts a “game-changer”

The government's lead non-executive says public services are now at a "critical juncture"

By Civil Service World

15 Oct 2015

The Spending Review will be a “game-changer” for government departments, the civil service’s lead non-executive director has predicted.

Former Kingfisher chief executive Sir Ian Cheshire was drafted into Whitehall earlier this year as part of a drive to improve departmental governance and sharpen the civil service’s commercial skills.

According to Guardian Public Leaders, the lead non-exec told the Public Chairs’ Forum annual conference that departments were in a “fog of war” over how to implement further spending reductions, following the Treasury’s call for them to submit plans for both 25% and 40% cuts.

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“Departments survived the last Spending Review with a lot of pushing and shoving, but the cuts were not life-changing,” he said. “But with another 25% to be cut — more in unprotected departments — this is a game-changer. This is a critical juncture for public services, right now and over the next three months.”

At the start of the Spending Review process, the Treasury outlined new “Single Departmental Plans”, which it said would help departments “ensure resources are being matched to government priorities” and avoid duplication.

Civil service chief executive John Manzoni has said he believes the SDPs will help departments “avoid short term cost cutting actions which may make it even harder in the future”.

But, the paper quotes Cheshire as describing the process of aligning the plans with the Spending Review as “pretty opaque”.

However, he reportedly expressed optimism that the Spending Review had prompted departments to focus on working together, and  said non-execs had now become more bold in challenging ministers.

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