The civil service chief says there is room to cut government expenditure further but stopped short of saying civil service pay will be slashed to ease the record Budget deficit. Speaking yesterday after his fourth meeting with senior civil servants, Secretary for Civil Service Joseph Wong Wing-ping said: 'As part of the government and the community, civil servants have the responsibility to help the government and the public to cut budget deficits. I would like to emphasise that there should be room for the government to further cut its expenditure.' But when asked whether civil service pay would be cut, he replied: 'It is a separate matter. The government will make a decision soon.' Mr Wong's comments followed calls by business groups for civil service pay cuts to combat the growing deficit, which reached a record HK$70.8 billion for the first half of this financial year. He also said the government wanted to implement the second phase of a voluntary retirement scheme early next year. In a letter issued to his 170,000 colleagues yesterday, Mr Wong said budget deficits could be cut by reorganising departments and simplifying work procedures. 'I call on the bureau/departmental management to step up communication with the staff. I also appeal to all colleagues to take the initiative to put forth their views. We should pool our wisdom and efforts together in attaining our goal of easing the deficit problem,' the letter read. He said the reorganisation of the Civil Service Bureau took effect yesterday and had cut its size by 10 per cent. The reorganisation would also streamline administrative procedures and simplify the decision-making process. 'There is room for saving in every office. Hence expenditure-cutting options of all scopes, ranging from large-scale reorganisation and outsourcing of work to small-scale savings on electricity and paper, warrant our careful consideration,' the letter added. During the meeting, Mr Wong also pledged to cut time taken to deal with civil servants with substandard performance. 'I hope the processing time needed to handle such cases would be substantially streamlined in future,' he said. Mr Wong said the idea was that once a civil servant's slackness in duty was proven, the person would be fired or told to retire in the public interest. Last night, a Civil Service Bureau spokesman said 13 government workers were told to retire in the public interest between 1998 and last month because of their substandard performance. In the past, this would have taken up to 72 weeks to process, Mr Wong said.