E-government services could cost 800,000 jobs

One in five civil service jobs could be cut over the next ten years as part of the drive to create e-government in the UK, says the e-envoy

The e-envoy, Andrew Pinder, has said that 800,000 public sector workers -- or up to one in five civil servants -- could be made redundant over the next 10 years because of the effect of putting government services online. The government's target is to put all services online by 2005.

Speaking at last month's Microsoft-sponsored Government Leaders Conference in Seattle, Andrew Pinder said: "You can make substantial savings in the delivery of some services where there are civil servants doing routine tasks. You could take 20 percent out of the cost of staffing over the next 10 years."

The e-envoy said that front-line staff such as nurses, doctors and teachers make up about half of the four million public sector employees and these positions would not be cut. However, of the other two million up to 40 percent could be replaced, "if you do it right and get high levels of take-up of electronic services."

Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office, has warned MPs that take-up could be low if members of the public cannot see any advantage in accessing services electronically. "Departments need to set take-up targets and develop incentives to encourage people to use electronic services. These might include transferring some of the cost savings to users, providing free services and faster service delivery," warned Bourn.

Pinder intends for cost savings from reduced government salaries to be reinvested into front-line services such as health and education.

Graeme Wearden contributed to this report


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