Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Following Monday's entry on how better procurement could help cut the deficit, I have just picked up on another report in the Guardian which also suggests a similar approach.

The article "Food can help cut the fiscal deficit" suggests that sustainably increasing food production in the UK makes both financial and environmental sense and that the case for better procurement in the health sector can be equally applied to the schools budget.

As the authors note,

"In opposition, the Tories created an ambitious public sector procurement working party, chaired by Zac Goldsmith, now MP for Richmond Park. This had David Cameron's blessing. Public procurement, worth £2.2bn a year, can lead the way in linking better health standards for schools with UK production. The nutrient standards which began in 2008 for primary and 2009 in secondary and special schools need further nurturing.

A number of blocks to raising UK food production loom. First is the skills shortage. Try getting a pruner or grafter for an orchard. The UK can easily grow more of the vegetables and fruit, which nutritionists advise us to consume more of, yet only half of our veg and a 10th of our fruit consumption is grown here. This is folly but one pointing to a great opportunity. And look at the country of origin of catering staff. The food chain employs more than 3.2 million people. The last government's council of food policy advisers ended its second report on that note. Jobs, training and skills ought to be on the agenda of the new education secretary Michael Gove and business secretary Vince Cable, not just Caroline Spelman and Jim Paice at Defra .

The second block is vision. Ironically, the Labour government got there with its Food 2030 document, which was good in aspiration but silent on delivery mechanisms. Working out who needs to do what is the key priority. Getting the public and private sector to agree that sustainability ticks lots of boxes simultaneously: jobs, fiscal deficit, the environment and climate change."

Yet again, there seems to be ways to cut the UK deficit without affecting frontline services.

Hopefully, the new UK Government will adopt this radical approach and develop a cross-departmental approach to dealing with the deficit. And I am sure there are many other similar solutions to making government spending more efficient and effective whilst keeping the funding intact for frontline services.

Indeed, you have to wonder whether the culture of splurge and spending that seems to have infected the last UK Government since Gordon Brown took the brakes off in 2001 has led to a discouragement of any programme that would actually save money for the taxpayer.