The Audit Commission chief executive Steve Bundred isn't the most obvious pin up for the Taxpayer's Alliance. He was a Labour member of the GLC in the 1980s when he was a staunch supporter of Ken Livingstone and the agenda to waste as much money as possible.

But Bundred had some robust comments on spending cuts at a New Local Government Network event at the LGA Conference. Bundred said:

“Both political parties have pledged that whatever happens they will protect health and education. I think that’s a big mistake. Health and education are the two services that have been most
generously funded over the past decade but they are among the most inefficient services.

Speaking to the Local Government Chronicle afterwards he added:

“It would seem perverse to assume that there is no scope for greater efficiencies in those services or that any scope would be limited to the back office. We have seen that there are huge variations in unit costs between comparable bodies at the front line and those services should not be exempt from the demand for greater savings.”

On Tuesday the Audit Commission published a report that suggests schools could save £400 million a year if they bought desks and equipment more sensibly. A primary school in my ward called John Betts is outstandingly successful. The children stay in the same classroom for all their lessons. Rather
than sharing tables, copying each other's answers, they sit at their own old-fashioned wooden school desks (with a cupboard at the front and a flap over it to put all the books in). This avoids time being wasted drifting from class to class and gives the children a sense of space. Of course it's not the only reason the school succeeds or even the main one. But I think it's one reason. The school certainly doesn't spend money getting new desks all the time.