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DfES found wanting on waste

The Department for Education and Skills is bottom of a government league table for its lack of progress in efficiency savings.

It was supposed to be introducing measures to reduce its spending by Pounds 4.35billion as part of a cross-Whitehall drive to cut waste. But the National Audit Office reported this week that, halfway through its three-year efficiency programme, the department had only made 28 per cent of its proposed savings.

The figure is lower than any other department, particularly the Department for Work and Pensions, which had achieved 90 per cent of its savings.

The audit office rebuked the DfES less than two months ago for a steep rise in its spending on private consultants. This week it cast doubt over efficiency measures the department claimed it had already introduced. Of the two projects it looked at in detail, it found that neither of the savings figures reported were fair.

The department's claim that it had saved pound;21million from its higher education information technology budget was rated red, which means "the measures used either do not yet demonstrate efficiencies, or the reported gains may be substantially incorrect".

In the report, Professor Colin Talbot of Manchester Business School also raised doubts over the pound;1.29billion the department said it could save through more productive working. "There is hardly any discussion about how such a monumental change is to be achieved and, crucially, measured," he said.

Ofsted is also cutting its budget by a third as part of the efficiency drive. Christine Gilbert, chief inspector of the body, admitted this week that she had not known about the cuts when she accepted the job in October 2006.

Senior inspectors have complained that the use of lighter-touch inspections has been driven more by cost-cutting than respect for teachers'

professionalism.

Ms Gilbert told a NASUWT teachers' union conference that she had been stunned to receive numerous complaints over the past three months from teachers whose lessons had not been observed when inspectors visited.

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