The report by Sir Philip Green into Whitehall efficiency is now out* and it makes interesting reading, not least his suggestion that maybe the state shouldn’t be paying for mobile phones for desk-bound junior personnel. (There are 105,000 government mobiles).
One of his discoveries is the lack of reliable central government data. For example, his team was first told that Whitehall spent £2bn a year on travel. The second estimate was £500m. The third was £768m – before the final figure came in at £551m. (This will seem familiar to all political journalists).
Sir Philip has also found big differences in prices paid to suppliers: a box of paper can cost anything from £8 to £73. Laptops vary from £353 to £2,000.
It turns out that Sir Philip, the government’s new efficiency czar, didn’t like the Today programme asking him uncomfortable questions last week. The retail tycoon was asked, among other things, about the tax status of his wife – who owns Arcadia. (She is resident in Monaco).
In an opinion piece for the Mail on Sunday today Sir Philip explains a little more about how he can advise Whitehall in the coming months. There’s also a little thinly-disguised threat against the BBC: