The Chancellor has outlined plans to deliver up to £1.8 billion worth of benefits by 2029 by improving public sector productivity, including releasing police time for more frontline work. 

The Chancellor is promoting public sector productivity as an alternative to accepting an ever-increasing bill for public services as the government sticks to its plan to move on from the high spending and high tax approach that was necessary to get the UK through the shocks of Covid and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

A new focus is needed on the long-term decisions required to strengthen the economy and give people the opportunity to build a wealthier, more secure life for themselves and their family. 

Covering frontline services, the plan is designed to help public servants get back to doing what is most important: teaching our children, keeping us safe and treating us when we’re sick.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt said: 

We shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking more spending buys us better public services. There is too much waste in the system and we want public servants to get back to doing what matters most: teaching our children, keeping us safe and treating us when we’re sick. 

That’s why our plan is about reaping the rewards of productivity, from faster access to MRIs for patients to hundreds of thousands of police hours freed up to attend burglaries or incidents of domestic abuse.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt. Photo credit: UK Gov.

According to the Office for Budget Responsibility, returning to levels of productivity pre-pandemic could save £20 billion a year. This will help manage the size of the state in the long term, whilst maintaining public service quality and delivering savings for taxpayers.  

The new announcement marks the first step towards delivering these savings. Over 130,000 patients a year, including those waiting for cancer results, will receive their test results sooner as a result of over one hundred MRI scanners in England being upgraded with Artificial Intelligence designed to recognise patterns in scans through machine learning which will cut scan times by over a third.  

The government also plans to repeat the success of Violence Reduction Units which together with the Grip hot spot policing programme are estimated to have prevented 3,220 hospital admissions from violent injury and stopped 136,000 violent offences since 2019. We are committing £75 million over 3-years to expand the Violence Reduction Unit model across England and Wales, supporting a prevention first approach to serious violence.  

Plans are also underway to deliver on the Police Productivity Review which found that up to 38 million hours of officer time could be saved every year. If just a fraction of this time, 500,000 officer hours, was saved then police officers in England could attend an additional 250,000 incidents of domestic abuse or over 300,000 burglaries. 

To help get these police officers back to these frontline tasks, over £230 million will fund the rollout of time-saving technology including funding automated redaction of personal information such as name badges in shoplifting incidents, irrelevant faces from body worn cameras and number plates from video evidence.  

Interviewing witnesses and victims via video call to improve speed of service; piloting the use of drones as first responders in some police incidents like traffic accidents, to feed information back to first responders on the seriousness of the incident and the resource required; and using AI to triage 101 calls to get members of the public the right support faster.  

This week’s plan represents a total £800 million investment by 2029 to deliver £1.8 billion worth of productivity benefits.

This includes: 

  • Saving up to 55,000 hours a year of administrative time in the justice system through digitising jury bundles, new software to streamline probation decisions and provide probation officers with more robust data on whether offenders are safe to release. £170 million will be invested into the justice system to support this. 
  • Reducing Local Authority overspends on children’s social care places across England by making 200 additional child social care places available and reducing local government reliance on costly emergency places for children. £165m of funding will be used to create the additional places to help tackle last year’s overspend of £670 million. 
  • Saving £100m for the public purse by reducing fraud thanks to expanding the use of AI across government to make it easier to spot and catch fraudsters, funded by £34m. 
  • Accelerating delivery of DWP’s existing programme to modernise DWP services and move away from paper-based communications. This will be funded through a £17m commitment. 
  • Cutting the time it takes for planning officers to process applications by 30% through a new AI pilot. 
  • Ensuring more children with additional needs get the support they need to thrive through a £105m to fund an additional wave of 15 special free schools.

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