Publication Growth and productivity Machinery of government Public finances 17 October, 2023

An efficiency mindset: prioritising efficiency in Whitehall's everyday work

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Spending public money wisely must be at the heart of how Whitehall operates. Every pound that is wasted, or used ineffectively, is a pound that could have been used to improve people's lives. 

Yet despite spending more than ever on public services, there is a growing sense among the public that they are not getting a good return on taxpayer investment, or worse still, that the State is simply not working. Inefficient public spending is particularly inexcusable when the performance of core public services is deteriorating. 

Too often efficiency has been left to fiscal events or acute economic crises, rather than being treated as a day-to-day imperative. Whereas the latter can secure meaningful, sustained efficiencies, the former frequently leads to crisis-driven cuts and false economies.  

An efficiency mindset argues for a step-change in approach. Spending well must be everyone's responsibility, and resources should be much better linked to the attainment of long-term, whole-of-government outcomes. 

The paper puts forward a framework for more efficient spending: one which better matches resources to priority outcomes; embeds evaluation early on in policymaking; and makes much better use of performance information. It also sets out ideas to strengthen the incentives that civil servants have to pursue efficiency, and improve how senior officials are held accountable for the results of spending.