LONDON — He may still be on his summer holiday, sailing his yacht around the Mediterranean, but that hasn’t stopped retail tycoon Sir Philip Green from starting his new job with British Prime Minister David Cameron.
On Friday, the British Cabinet Office announced that Green will lead an external efficiency review into government spending. Green’s Arcadia retail group — parent of Topshop and Topman — is one of the UK’s largest private employers.
Cameron, who became prime minster in May, has been implementing a major austerity plan, slashing government spending, and cutting back on everything from PR and communications budgets to child benefit payments to the civil service in a bid to plug the country’s 156 billion pounds, or $243.4 billion, budget deficit.
A cabinet office statement said Green’s job will be to scrutinize government spending over the past three years to indentify inefficiencies and potential savings. More specifically, he’ll be looking at whether government leases and contracts entered into since 2007 offer value for money.
Green, who is well-known for his attention to detail and no-nonsense approach to business, will present his findings to the Cabinet Office on October 20.
“It’s a 6-8 week program, and I like the fact that it’s a focused job with a specific time frame — I don’t want to spend my time going around in circles,” said Green in a telephone interview.
“In simple terms, we’ll be looking at the way the government operates. We hope to help take it down the road to becoming more efficient,” he added.
Green said governments couldn’t be more different from retail businesses. “They are about 180 degrees apart. For example, they don’t have central procurements like retail businesses do,” he said. “I need to understand how they do things and how they buy things.”
Green said he’s planning a highly-targeted approach. “Right now we’re deciding on the key areas where we can be most effective. And we know there are some things we won’t be able to change,” he said.