MPs warn Foreign Office to 'live within its means'

MPs on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee have warned that the Foreign Office is being stretched 'almost to the limit' by a heavy workload and cuts to its budget. They said the department should be more 'realistic' about what it can achieve.

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Foreign Office 'on track to miss staff reduction target'

Sir Richard Ottaway, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, has said that the Foreign Office is not on track to cut the number of UK-based staff by 10% by the original target of 2015.

It's actually had to increase staff in order to cope with policy demands, and it's not on track to meet its target of a 10% headcount reduction in UK-based staff by 2015.

What we're saying is: be realistic, live within your means, and make sure that priorities are clearly defined.

– Sir Richard Ottaway, chairman, Foreign Affairs Select Committee

But MPs concluded that it was on course to make savings totalling approximately £170 million over the Spending Review period to 2014/15.

Foreign Office is 'being stretched almost to the limit'

There are signs that the FCO is being stretched, almost to the limit. One of the symptoms is the prospect that the department will need an extra year to meet its target of a 10% headcount reduction in UK-based staff, largely because of 'sustained pressure to deliver an ambitious policy agenda'.

We believe the department may be in danger of trying to do too much at a time when capacity is being limited. A more realistic approach by the department and by ministers is needed, as well as a clearer definition of priorities.

We conclude that in future the department will need to attach greater importance to living within its means and will need to recognise that there are limits to what it can take on.

– Foreign Affairs Select Committee report

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MPs warn Foreign Office to 'live within its means'

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has been warned to "live within its means" and to be more "realistic" about what it can achieve at a time of cuts to Government spending.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office in central London Credit: Johnny Green/PA

MPs on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee said the department was being "stretched almost to the limit" as it tries to make £170 million in savings up to 2015 while maintaining a large workload.

"We believe the department may be in danger of trying to do too much at a time when capacity is being limited," the MPs said.

They mentioned the demands placed on the FCO "at a time of particular turbulence in the Middle East and elsewhere" as well as by the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

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