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The Invest to Save Budget

Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office, reported today that the Invest to Save (ISB) programme has fostered better working together by organisations, departments, agencies and local authorities. But there is less evidence of what the programme has achieved in terms of tangible outputs.

In its study of the Invest to Save Budget, the NAO found that that just over a third of the 260 projects are intended to achieve efficiency gains and two-thirds improvements in service delivery. The expected benefits to costs on ISB projects are of the order of two to one.

Twenty-eight per cent (£88 million) of the £310 million spent so far has been allocated to projects to deliver improvements in health, education, transport and tackling crime. A further twenty-eight percent has been allocated to delivering local improvements in public service delivery mainly through better use of IT.

Many projects are at the early stages of implementation. Only 40 (15 per cent) of the 260 projects supported in the first three rounds of the ISB programme were completed by July 2002. It is therefore not yet possible to assess fully what the ISB programme has achieved.

The Department for Work and Pensions’ “ONE” project was well evaluated and lessons from the project used in the development of Jobcentre Plus. This is a notable exception. Less thought appears to have been given as to how the key lessons from other projects should be disseminated. As a result, key lessons about projects and the way innovative activities have been managed may have been lost. Also lessons about the management of the programme in earlier rounds, such as the need for all those involved with a project to have the same agreed objectives, have not yet been fully taken on board by departments. This raises the risk of duplication of effort and additional costs.

The report recommends that departments should focus more on identifying the barriers to improved service delivery and ensure that the projects they propose for ISB support are better targeted to identify how these barriers can be tackled in new and innovative ways. Also they should provide more support for managers responsible for innovative projects, circulate the results of ISB projects more systematically and give consideration to the sustainability of benefits and innovation once ISB funding ceases.

"The ISB programme was set up to promote innovation and better working together by organisations. But departments’ management of ISB projects needs to be strengthened to form a better judgement as to whether projects are worth implementing more widely to improve services and efficiency. "

Sir John

Notes for Editors

  1. This report examines what the Invest to Save programme has achieved so far. The Invest to Save Budget (ISB) programme administered by the Treasury is intended to support innovation and has provided £310 million to over 330 projects involving government departments, local and health authorities, voluntary bodies and the police, working together to achieve improvements in service delivery and efficiency. At £80 million the largest project is the Department for Work and Pensions’ ONE project to enable people to claim benefits from a single contact point.
  2. The study involved a detailed review of ten projects to assess how they had been selected and managed, and whether they had delivered service benefits and efficiency gains.
  3. Press notices and reports are available from the date of publication on the NAO website at Hard copies can be obtained from The Stationery Office on 0845 702 3474.
  4. The Comptroller and Auditor General, Sir John Bourn, is the head of the National Audit Office employing some 750 staff. He and the NAO are totally independent of Government. He certifies the accounts of all Government departments and a wide range of other public sector bodies; and he has statutory authority to report to Parliament on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which departments and other bodies have used their resources.

PN: 69/02