Billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money are committed to spending schemes on the basis of “vague hopes” of improving people’s lives, rather than solid evidence that the plans will work, a report has warned.
The report, from the Centre for Social Justice thinktank, called for a “fundamental shake-up” of the way that Whitehall spends public money to eliminate waste and boost results.
And it warned that, without a change of culture, the current £81 billion round of spending cuts could leave wasteful programmes in place, while shutting down ones which are valued by the public.
The report – entitled Outcome-Based Government – called for the establishment of an independent Office of Spending Effectiveness to scrutinise Government programmes to see whether they are delivering the required results and good value for money.
For decades, successive governments have focused more on outputs – such as numbers of police officers, teachers or social workers – than on the outcomes which matter to the public, like falling crime, better exam results or fewer drug addicts, said the report.
It urged the Government to spell out the intended outcomes of its programmes, to be more open about the impact of cuts and to focus on trimming the least effective schemes.
“Whitehall decisions about the allocation of £700bn of taxpayer’s money should be made on the basis of clearly defined objectives and not vague hopes of improving people’s lives,” said the thinktank, founded by current Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.
More than three-quarters of inquiries by the National Audit Office spending watchdog over the past four years have criticised the clarity of objectives, cost-effectiveness and implementation of Government policies.
Earlier this year, the Commons Public Accounts Committee found that £1.2bn was spent each year on problem drug users, without the Government knowing what overall effect it was having.
CSJ executive director Gavin Poole said: “Taxpayer’s money should tackle real problems and improve people’s lives. Too often there is limited evidence to show this is the case.”