UK Treasury issues cost-saving guidance to departments; New Zealand to form online security agency: policy & delivery news in brief

By on 03/08/2023 | Updated on 03/08/2023
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt leaves 10 Downing Street. Photo by Rory Arnold, No 10 Downing Street via HM Treasury, Flickr

Global Government Forum’s digest of the news you need to know but might have missed

UK Treasury issues efficiency guidance

HM Treasury has published new guidelines for departments on how to record and organise savings.

The efficiency framework first announced by chancellor Jeremy Hunt in the spring applies to all central government departments and agencies. It outlines ways in which civil servants should categorise, track and report on efficiencies. According to the document, this ties together “current best practice across departments” to give senior leaders a “blueprint for how to implement, improve, or enhance their efficiency reporting processes”.

The publication of the framework follows the 2021 Spending Review, in which departments were asked to save 5% from their day-to-day budgets by 2024-25 and reinvest it into “priority areas”.

The guidance focuses on two categories of efficiency. The first is ‘technical’ efficiency, defined as either achieving the same results with fewer resources or achieving better results without extra resources; and the second is ‘allocative’ efficiency, which involves moving resources where they are seen to be most cost effective.

In the framework document, Treasury second permanent secretary Cat Little said the guidance was expected to produce “more consistency in our approach across UK public services” and to “foster trust through greater transparency”.

Departments will start using the framework before the end of the 2023/24 financial year. Agencies, non-departmental public bodies, and all arm’s length bodies will be expected to apply it from 2024/25. The guidance is expected to be refreshed annually.

Read more: What Jeremy Hunt’s Budget says – and what it omits

New Zealand strengthens cyber defences with lead online security agency

The Government of New Zealand has announced that it is to set up a lead cyber agency to bolster its online security defences.

The plan to improve the country’s cybersecurity will involve merging New Zealand’s Computer Emergency Response Team with its National Cyber Security Centre. The government has said this will make it easier for businesses and citizens to seek help in the areas of cybersecurity and protection.

Andrew Little, the country’s public service minister, said that New Zealand had faced frequent cyberattacks and that instances have grown more complex and widespread.

“The cybersecurity threats New Zealand faces are growing in scale and sophistication,” he said. “Having a single agency to provide authoritative advice and respond to incidents across every threat level is international best practice.”

In the first quarter of 2023, New Zealand reported a conservative estimate of around NZ$5.8m (US$3.68m) in losses due to cyber incidents.

A ransomware attack on payments solutions firm Smartpay Holdings in June has pushed officials in New Zealand to work more closely with the private sector to assess risks and implement precautions.

Last year, Australia announced a plan to launch a joint taskforce whose role is to target hackers before they launch cyberattacks that risk key public service systems and citizen data.

Read more: Australian government forms joint taskforce to tackle cyber attacks

Japanese government uses AI to expose misinformation on Fukushima wastewater purge

The Japanese government is using artificial intelligence (AI) to scan social media for misinformation about its plan to release treated wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean.

In March 2011, an earthquake and tsunami destroyed the cooling systems of the Fukushima No.1 plant, leading to the meltdown of three reactors and a leakage of radioactive material.

Japan plans to release treated wastewater from the plant, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has given assurances to Japan’s neighbouring countries that the water due to be purged from the plant is safe.

However, Japan’s Foreign Ministry has been fighting to tackle false online claims that the waste product contains radioactive materials that pose a danger to the environment.

Examples of claims picked up on social media include posts from sources in China citing “contaminated radioactive water” at the power plant.

The government’s efforts to counter such misinformation have included an animated video tweeted by the Foreign Ministry on 26 July. The video explains in a range of different languages (Japanese, English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Chinese and Korean) the safety precautions taken in the process.

It describes how the water at the plant is purified to regulatory standards through an Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), and that the water is diluted with seawater by 100 times its consistency before being released into the wider marine area.

Read more: Japanese government uses AI to expose misinformation on Fukushima wastewater purge

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About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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