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Philip Hammond explains how the Conservatives are looking to Canada for lessons on how to make spending cuts

HAMMOND PHILIP This morning's Sunday Times reports that civil servants are planning for cuts in public spending of up to 20% amid claims that Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward is wielding unprecedented influence over Gordon Brown and "causing mayhem".

The paper also reveals the fact that Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Philip Hammond, is hoping to learn lessons from Canada about how to make significant cuts without harming frontline public services:

Hammond revealed he had recently met a delegation of politicians from Canada, who were responsible for a radical 20% cut in spending imposed by the federal government in the 1990s. “The psychological tactics they used to get ministers to work together, looking at it as a shared problem rather than a series of departmental problems, were important,” said Hammond.

The two architects of Canada’s programme review, Jocelyne Bourgon, who was the country’s top civil servant, and Marcel Massé, a former minister, cut 47,000 civil service jobs.

Under the programme review, ministers and officials were required to assess all the activities of the government “to identify those that no longer served a national purpose or could be delivered more efficiently through other means”. Subsidies were cut, particularly for transport and agriculture, and many of the activities of government departments were scrapped, pared back or transferred to the private sector.

This would appear to be a very commendable model to follow. As stated by the Local Government Chronicle's political editor earlier in the year, the Canadian review was effectively "a complete re-examination of the role of government in creating the kind of society the people wanted to live in".

I'd say that's just what we need.

Jonathan Isaby


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