Getting here hasn't been easy. Any political party has to earn the right to serve in government. Five years ago when I opened our conference as Party Chairman I said some things that some people didn't want to hear.
I said we had to change; that we had to earn the right for people to listen to us; that we had to show ourselves in tune with what people in modern Britain wanted; show that we shared people's values and their deep concern for the most vulnerable, the environment and public services.
We've now shown ourselves to be that party, and we couldn't have done it without you. You understood it, and you made it happen. And most importantly, you elected a bold young leader in David Cameron who's daily showing what a truly great Prime Minister he going to be.
So, we're in Government. Yes we're a Coalition. But at a time of huge national challenge people expect politicians to come together and work together in the national interest. We've done it; it's working; and Britain will thank David Cameron and Nick Clegg for their courage and vision in creating this government with its historic mission to get Britain moving again.
EFFICIENCY - CUTTING OUT THE WASTE
Labour's legacy was state spending of £4 for every £3 in revenue, the government having to borrow £1 in every £4 just to keep the lights on, pensions paid, teachers in schools and doctors and nurses in hospitals. We literally can't go on like this. So the day one job the PM gave me was to start saving money. It's not glamorous. It won't provide Sun headlines. It's painstaking, grinding prosaic work. Buying stuff better, for example, saves money. Labour didn't even bother to try. We found that some parts of government were paying 71/2 times more for standard black toner cartridges than others. This is just throwing taxpayers' money down the drain. If we buy things like this just once we can use government's scale and buying power to drive prices right down. It's the same with travel, vehicles, energy; you name it, we can save money on it.
So, we've been renegotiating contracts with government's biggest suppliers, dealing with them as a single customer instead of letting them play one part of government off against another. Usually, we're their biggest customer. So we're entitled to get handsome discounts. Negotiating this wasn't the most glamorous way to spend the first part of August. And we're not there yet. This is a work in progress. But so far we've saved several hundred million pounds just in this financial year alone. There's much more we can do, and I'm delighted that Sir Philip Green and his team are helping us to identify even more wasteful practices, so we can do much better in the future.
Of course there are things we can simply stop doing. Advertising, consultants, IT, offices. We've frozen spending on all these four, with exceptions anywhere in government having to come to me to be approved. Or not approved.
So far, we've reviewed over 300 government projects with worth nearly £3bn, and we've stopped over £1bn. Last year Labour spent £450m on government advertising and marketing alone. Since we have been in office we have reduced that spending over the comparable period in 2009 by half, that's £27m. We can do things very differently in future. Instead of paying over £200m to buy advertising space in the media, why shouldn't we use publicly owned channels such as government websites to deliver public service messages?
We're only at the start of this cost-cutting drive. But I can tell you that in total these initiatives will save the British taxpayer around £3bn just in this financial year. Money saved by looking long and hard at efficiency. I sometimes ask why none of my Labour predecessors bothered with this. Yes Ed Miliband, I'm talking about you. Were you a bit grand for it? Let's face it, it's because Labour didn't bother with the basics of good government thousands of dedicated public servants now face losing their jobs.
That's why this matters so much. Cutting the cost of government helps to protect frontline public services on which vulnerable people depend. But it also helps to protect jobs. Because of the Labour legacy, a lot of dedicated public servants will lose their jobs. We should never forget that every single job lost represents a disaster for a family. So everything we do by hard-headed hard work to take cost out of government overhead helps to save those jobs and protect those families.
PUBLIC SECTOR MUTUAL SPINOUTS
So we'll carry on working to take out costs. But we also think public services can be delivered really differently. When we asked public servants this summer for ideas to save money we had 63,000 responses. There is huge pent-up frustration at the culture of top-down, target-driven, bureaucratic control. So we're inviting public servants to spin themselves out of the public sector and form mutuals or co-ops to deliver the services themselves. We think this will unleash a wave of innovation. We already have ten pathfinders launched, and we've been inundated with further requests. The feedback so far has been terrific. One of our pathfinders, Leicester Homeless Healthcare, a fantastic group doing so much for the homeless people in their area, wrote to my team this week telling us that this opportunity is already starting to make an impact. Last week I visited Surrey Central Health, a mutual set up four years ago, and was incredibly uplifted hearing how they're transforming how they deliver their services. Delivering much more. For much less. It really can be done.
The more this happens the stronger our economy. As the groundswell builds, thousands of public service entrepreneurs will be unleashed. And thousands of social enterprises created. This can help us build a Big Society, as David Cameron's vision has outlined. I was a little daunted when he asked me to lead the government's work on the Big Society. Of course it isn't a new idea. It's as old as the hills. We have an amazing heritage of civil society; a fantastically rich pattern of people doing things together, as formal organisations and as informal groups; coming together to improve the lives of themselves, their families and their communities.
But we can have a still bigger society, a stronger more cohesive society where we make it easier for people to volunteer, and make a difference to those around them. It's people power at its best. It's the other side of the coin of localism, decentralisation. Eric Pickles and Greg Clark are in the business of pushing power away from the centre, while Nick Hurd and I are working to build the capacity and opportunity for people to demand that power and use it to shape their neighbourhoods and their lives.
So we're creating a Big Society Bank, training a whole new generation of community organisers, involving more voluntary and social enterprises in public service provision. Social action; community engagement. These are not just warm phrases. They're about real people doing practical things that improve lives. Take Bikeworks, for example. It's a social enterprise who restore used bikes, creating employment and training opportunities for disadvantaged communities and encouraging more people to get cycling. Motivated, fantastic people who make a real difference in the communities they work in.
NATIONAL CITIZENS SERVICE
Let me say a word about another project. It's very much the Prime Minister's personal idea. It's the launch of a National Citizens Service. We are often bound as a nation by experiences which tie us together: the agony of the world cup, cheering our athletes to victory at the Olympics, supporting our troops to name a few. The National Citizens Service will be a rite of passage to adulthood for young people; ultimately we hope for all of them. It will be a common experience for sixteen year olds, mixing people from all backgrounds in a robust programme of outdoor challenge and constructive social action.
So I can announce today that there will be 10,000 places on next year's pilot scheme; and the following year 30,000 places. No-one expects this to be an overnight transformation. But you have to start somewhere, and over the years and the decades ahead this programme will gradually help build a bigger stronger society; more cohesive; citizens with a stronger engagement with their communities, and a deep sense of social responsibility.
Now, those citizens who want to engage, who have this sense of social responsibility, are entitled to expect the state to be open with them. To tell them what's going on. To share information and data with them openly and transparently. They want information on where the state is spending their money, so they can demand the right to redirect it and shape it. Small businesses and voluntary organisations want information on which contracts are being tendered, so they can offer better and cheaper ways to deliver them. We've already published a wealth of information - the Treasury's spending database; a list of all quango heads and civil servants earning over £150k; and government tender documents over £10k. We want to go much further. Thousands of commercial and social entrepreneurs have been frustrated by their inability to obtain and reuse datasets. I'm sorry to say that some councils spend time and money deliberately making data unusable to anyone else. So, as part of building the Right to Data, we will amend the Freedom of Information Act to ensure that all data released through FOI must be in a reusable and machine readable format, available to everyone and able to be exploited for social and commercial purposes.
Information helps the public to make government accountable. And there's a huge part of the state that is currently completely unaccountable. It's the quango state. And we're changing that. I'll soon be announcing the results of our quango review. It'll help save money for sure. But the main purpose is to increase accountability. Of course many public bodies genuinely need to be independent and politically impartial. Many will remain. But they'll have to pass some demanding tests to survive. No longer will we casually shuffle off difficult decisions to unelected quangos. In this Coalition Ministers will step up and take responsibility themselves.
So to get Britain moving again we've come together in the national interest. Again it falls to us to sort out the legacy of Labour's locust years. Our government and our party must show ourselves equal to this historic task. There is a long climb ahead. We are only in the foothills of the ascent. But the prize for the country if we succeed is huge.