UK government aims to tackle admin burden across public services

By on 20/11/2023 | Updated on 20/11/2023
The Chancellor Jeremy Hunt & Chief Secretary to the Treasury Laura Trott visit Milton Keynes Blue Light Hub to hear from front line staff about how the government can support them to reduce the burden of admin. Photo by Zara Farrar / HM Treasury
The chancellor Jeremy Hunt & chief secretary to the Treasury Laura Trott visit Milton Keynes Blue Light Hub to hear from frontline staff about how the government can support them to reduce the burden of admin. Photo by Zara Farrar / HM Treasury

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will this week set out plans to reduce public servants’ administration workload after a Treasury review found that some frontline staff spend a whole day a week on such tasks.

Hunt will publish a new government productivity programme this week as part of the Autumn Statement. The plan will outline how to use technology, including artificial intelligence, to free up public servants from admin work.

Hunt said that UK public servants are among the best in the world, but “we don’t help them or taxpayers when a day every week is wasted on admin”.

“We must do better by cutting admin, preventing problems before they emerge and safely introducing new technology like AI. This will deliver happier workforces, better public services and a stronger economy.”

The government will present a number of objectives to reduce public sector workloads across three areas: workforce development, AI and new technology; and prevention.

The workforce strand focuses on potential to reform “the shape, size and culture of public services”.

In particular, government taskforces are reviewing the administrative tasks faced by teachers and police officers in an effort to free up their time.

This is linked to the deployment of artificial intelligence and new technology. A £2m (US$2.5m) pilot project has seen thousands of teachers use AI to help them develop lessons plans and classroom quizzes.

Read more: AI-generated documents ‘biggest bet’ to improving NHS productivity, ex-director of transformation says

On the final category of prevention, Hunt will set out work to relieve pressure on public services in the face of demographic changes, such as an ageing population. 

Elements include an increased focus on preventative healthcare as part of the NHS, as well as the development of the first-ever national kinship care strategy at the end of the year, in recognition of the crucial support kinship carers provide for some of the most vulnerable children.

‘Wielding new technology can improve morale and performance’

Setting out further details of the review, chief secretary to the Treasury Laura Trott – who took over the brief last week from John Glen, who had led the review process since June – said that by “safely wielding new technology, cutting down bureaucracy and tackling issues earlier, we can improve morale and performance” across public services.

The Treasury will continue to engage with industry experts, academics and public sector organisations in the UK and other governments ahead of the Budget next Spring, when more details will be set out about how to use AI across public services.

Separately, the UK government has revealed plans for civil servants to be required to work 60% of their working hours in government offices as part of its latest crackdown on remote working.

Senior officials have been told to “set and implement an expectation of increased office-based working” among their staff, according to a draft letter sent to some senior civil servants this morning and seen by Civil Service World.

“We have together agreed, therefore, that across the civil service, those based in offices will spend a minimum of 60% of their working time working face to face with their colleagues either in offices or on official business, rather than at home,” the letter stated.

Read more: UK civil service ‘should give ministers greater role in appointments’

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About Richard Johnstone

Richard Johnstone is the executive editor of Global Government Forum, where he helps to produce editorial analysis and insight for the title’s audience of public servants around the world. Before joining GGF, he spent nearly five years at UK-based title Civil Service World, latterly as acting editor, and has worked in public policy journalism throughout his career.

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