Published On: Sat, Mar 2nd, 2024

Jeremy Hunt explains how he plans to save £1.8bn | Politics | News

New technology will slash red tape in the NHS and police as part of a Government bid to save £1.8billion.

Plans include sending police drones to incidents such as traffic accidents so they can relay information about the level of resources required.

Jeremy Hunt will insist he can cut costs without damaging public services when he delivers a Budget statement on Wednesday designed to end the “high spending and high tax” policies introduced to deal with Covid and soaring energy bills.

Some crime victims and witnesses will be interviewed via video call rather than in person, and artificial intelligence (AI) will be used on 101 calls to help the public get the support they need. AI will also be used in the NHS to help analyse MRI scans, ensuring more than 130,000 patients a year get test results sooner.

The efficiency measures will cost £800million, most of it spent on new technology, but Mr Hunt aims to improve public sector productivity by £1.8billion by 2029 – with savings of £20billion eventually possible, according to an analysis by the Office for Budget Responsibility watchdog.

Mr Hunt said: “We shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking more spending buys us better public services.

“There is too much waste in the system and we want public servants to get back to doing what matters most: teaching our children, keeping us safe and treating us when we’re sick. That’s why our plan is about reaping the rewards of productivity, from faster access to MRIs for patients to hundreds of thousands of police hours freed up to attend burglaries or incidents of domestic abuse.”

Other measures in the £800million package include a £34million fund to reduce fraud by expanding the use of AI across government to make it easier to spot and catch fraudsters, in a move estimated to save £100million.

It also aims to cut the time it takes for planning officers to process applications by a third with a new AI pilot, and to boost support for children with additional needs through a £105million fund to help deliver an additional 15 special free schools.

Mr Hunt was last night facing calls to use the Budget to boost the armed forces after Defence Secretary Grant Shapps urged him to raise military spending to 2.5 per cent of GDP.

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