By Daniel Hunter

Peter Fleming, Chairman of the Local Government Association's (LGA) Improvement and Innovation Board, has said that the CBI figures for taxpayer savings are 'pie in the sky'.

A new CBI report on public services reform identifies how to maintain high quality public services and achieve £22.6 billion or more of taxpayer savings by further opening up public service delivery to independent providers.

However, Mr Fleming has said the report is well off the mark, and the suggested amount of saving is quite ridiculous.

"The estimated savings are pie in the sky. Councils already outsource more than any other part of the public sector and are examining every avenue to provide value for money for taxpayers," he said.

"However, the CBI calculation assumes that cost is the only criteria councils have to consider, and rickety methodology means fresh savings are being claimed for services which have already been outsourced.

"Local authorities routinely look at how services can be delivered better and more cheaply. In some cases the private option is the best and in others councils find better value, a superior service and more control over standards by keeping services in house. A narrow ‘private good, public bad' approach just doesn't add up for local communities.

"This is an important debate and we need to base it in reality. A blanket assumption on the savings that can be delivered by opening services to tender is ludicrous. Clearly when it comes to essential, big cost areas like social care the drive to save money has to be tempered by the need to maintain high standards and ensure strong lines of democratic accountability.

"The public sector does need to make sure it is providing value for money. That means not only opening public services to private providers when appropriate, but also tearing down the barriers between different parts of the public sector.

"Public services are more accountable, efficient and in tune with the needs of local people when they are delivered locally. A radical devolution of power could deliver enormous savings through pooling budgets at a local level, stripping the public sector of swathes of bureaucracy and unnecessary regulations."

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