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Tory adviser defends NI efficiency calculations

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 09 April 2010

One of the men that advised the Conservatives they could make £12bn efficiency savings has defended his calculations to Channel 4 News, but the Tories have refused to publish his findings in full.

Big Ben (Getty)

Conservative leader David Cameron and the shadow Chancellor George Osborne have faced growing pressure to explain how they would fund their pledge to part-reverse Labour's one per cent planned rise in national insurance (NI) next April.

Dr Martin Read, along with Sir Peter Gershon, is credited with providing the advice behind the Tory's pledge to halt the NI increase and find £12bn savings within nine months.  
Dr Read told Channel 4 News: "Let me assure you this is a very serious piece of work, behind each of those 5 points there are detailed numbers, and I am 100 per cent convinced that with the right political will and managerial motivation those savings can be got in the first year"
He said the party had been provided with detailed numbers, but said "the Tories have the numbers and it's for the Tories to disclose them".

The Conservatives have still to publish Dr Read's calculations in full, despite requests from Channel 4 News to do so.

The shadow chief secretary to the treasury Philip Hammond said "The charge levelled at us was that this calculation was done on "the back of a fag packet". What Dr Read and indeed Peter Gershon have made clear over the last 24 hours is that this is very far from being the case."
He declined to commit to release Dr Read's full advice, saying "We have published a summary."

Dr Read's comments came after Sir Peter Gershon, a former government adviser, also explained his calculations to the The Financial Times.

He said reductions in the use of agency and contract staff, and curbing recruitment, could save between £1-2bn by April 2011.

Economics editor Faisal Islam blogs
So as it stands, the Conservative Party has decided to hold back important information on the "painless" cuts that it plans this year that we know it has received from its adviser.

Labour too has some problems with candour and clarity. They won’t publish the Treasury impact assessment of just how many jobs may be cost by an increase in national insurance and they were being attacked by the Conservatives for that.

At this election time it is perhaps unsurprising that the main parties don't want to tell the electorate exactly what sort of pain is in store, but the markets aren't impressed.

And they won't be impressed by a raft of tax promises in the manifestos either.

Labour had warned the Tories' savings plans would mean the loss of tens of thousands of public sector jobs.

But Mr Cameron insisted there would be no need for compulsory redundancies.

He said the savings could be achieved by not filling some of the 400,000 vacancies which he said become available every year because staff retire or move on.

"Sir Peter has now comprehensively demolished Gordon Brown's whole argument by showing that the numbers do add up and that our plans would not hit the front line," the Conservatives said.

The party also released the names of 54 Scottish businessmen who had joined them to oppose Labour's "jobs tax".

But Chancellor, Alistair Darling, said the Tory plan would also mean job cuts in private firms - which provide services like IT and agency support for government contracts. 

He claimed Conservative policy was already unravelling.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown also claimed the Tories efficiency savings would be paid for by thousands of job cuts: "Today will be the day that the Tory's spending plans will be unravelled," he said.

"That is something I do not want to see", he said. "It puts the recovery at risk... and I am not prepared to take the risk that the Tories would with our economy".

Unison boss Dave Prentis said the Conservative plans would mean "misery for hundreds of thousands of people who rely on public services and for the people who deliver them."

Colin Talbot, professor of public management at Manchester Business School, said if the Conservatives tried to make another £12bn of efficiency savings - front line services were bound to be affected.

The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg accused Mr Cameron of offering "tax bribes" and said he wasn't being straight with voters about how it would be paid for.

The party's treasury spokesman Ed Davey said the Conservatives' figures were "fantasy, based on fantasy".

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