E-envoy disputes 800,000 job-loss quote

Andrew Pinder, the UK's e-envoy, claims that quotes saying one in five civil service jobs are to be lost were taken out of context

The e-envoy, Andrew Pinder, has said that comments he made about job losses from putting government services online were taken out of context.

Speaking at a Parliamentary hearing on Monday, Pinder told MPs he had been misquoted in reports that said 20 percent could be taken out of the cost of staffing over a decade with the introduction of e-services. The reports said that this figure, delivered at last month's Microsoft Government Leaders Conference in Seattle, would result in 800,000 public servants losing their jobs.

Pinder now disputes these reports, according to the publication Government Computing. "The quotes were taken out of context," he told the Parliamentary hearing. "I said I didn't know what the effect on staff would be. I was drawing a distinction between the public and private sectors... the private sector could argue that you could take 20 percent out of the cost of staffing over 10 years but I went on to argue that the public sector is different to the private sector."

Edward Leigh, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, called for more information on the amount Whitehall expects to save from e-government. "I'm surprised by the woolly answers," he said responding to evidence presented to MPs at the hearing. "I would have thought that if you are the e-envoy you would have the information at your fingertips."

A year ago the e-envoy was criticised by the European Information Society Group (Eurim) as lacking the resources to promote e-commerce in the UK. Philip Virgo, Eurim general secretary, said that Pinder, who has a staff of 75, had already suggested that his office's workload required nearer to 200 people. Virgo said the issues facing the e-envoy were so complex that the job "could not be done by one person."

Gartner research director John Mahoney told delegates at the Society of IT Managers' Spring Seminar in Bolton earlier in the year that government Web portals will not be used by citizens to access services online, with much of e-government likely to be delivered through trusted third parties in the private sector.

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