Background to the report

The first government functions were formally established in 2013. They are groupings of professionals who work across government bodies to provide expert skills.

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By cutting across departments and arm’s-length bodies, functions seek to: develop and deploy specialist expertise; set strategies for cross-government working; and set and assure standards for their area of expertise.

There are now 14 government functions that cover activities such as procurement, major project delivery and finance. Through their work, functions also seek to increase the efficiency of the work undertaken by government.

For the past two years, the Cabinet Office has measured and reported on financial efficiency savings and wider benefits made by cross-cutting government functions. The exercise is intended to cover savings made by central government functional teams in their work with government departments.

Scope of the report

In this report we:

  • explain how and why functions track efficiency savings
  • examine the roles and responsibilities of the functions, the Cabinet Office and the GIAA in monitoring efficiency savings, and the limitations of the current approach
  • discuss what lessons can be learned from this exercise for future efficiency work

We have not fully reperformed the exercise GIAA and Cabinet Office undertook to assure the savings. We have not looked at any savings departments calculate which do not form part of the functional savings.


Government has a long-held ambition to improve the efficiency of public services, including by embedding cross-cutting functions to identify and share efficient ways of working. Creating good information around savings is essential so that government can track its return on investment and make good decisions about where to best invest limited resources in the future.

The GIAA has given the Cabinet Office’s efforts to measure functional efficiencies a ‘moderate’ assurance rating overall, but there are gaps in the assurance it is able to provide. There is no external assurance of individual savings and where recommendations are made, these are not consistently acted on.

Although most functions have a clear methodology in place, some do not. Overall, functions adopt different approaches and there is limited evidence of learning across functions.

The Cabinet Office is only two years into publishing efficiency savings and has learned some valuable lessons, but it has further to go to be able to robustly quantify the savings delivered by the functions.


Publication details

Press release

View press release (25 Oct 2023)

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