4. Quality public services:
We will deliver efficient, high quality public services
and will not tolerate mediocrity
1. This Government believes in the public
service and public servants. But that does not mean the public service
at any price. The British public has grown accustomed to consumer
choice and competition in the private sector. If our public service is
to survive and thrive, it must match the best in its ability to
innovate, to share good ideas and to control costs. Above all, the
public service must deliver efficiently and effectively the policies,
programmes and services of government. Some of our public services
achieve this now. But others do not. We intend to bring them up to the
level of the best, and make the best even better, by modernising the
controls under which they operate, by encouraging new ways of working
and wherever practicable by giving the public the right to choose.
Identifying the problem
2. Governments have not always looked
closely enough at the link between spending and what the public is
really getting in the way of results. Sometimes they have cut resources
in one area without being fully aware of what the consequences across
the system will be. At other times, resources have been increased with
no real certainty that this is leading to improvements in services as
experienced by users. The checks and controls that should drive
improvement have been allowed to act instead as barriers to innovation.
The incentives to modernise have been weak. And without having a clear
enough picture of the outcomes on the ground, it has been difficult to
identify lessons and share learning about how to do things better.
What must change
3. The Government needs to ensure that
public bodies are clearly focused on the results that matter to people,
that they monitor and report their progress in achieving these results
and that they do not allow bureaucratic boundaries to get in the way of
sensible co-operation. We must make clear that additional investment
comes with strings attached and is conditional on achieving improved
results through modernisation. We must encourage a commitment to
quality and continuous improvement, and ensure that public bodies know
how to turn this commitment
into results. And we must work in partnership with the independent
and inspectorates, so that we all focus on the goal of improving the
to the public.
4. Too often in the past, the tendency in
the public service has been to stick with the traditional. The world is
changing too fast for that to be an effective approach. The best public
bodies have shown an ability to innovate and improve. We need to
encourage others to follow the example of the best, and to make a step
change in the general standards of public services.
5. We must not assume that everything
government does has to be delivered by the public sector. The last
Government adopted an approach to competition in the public sector
which favoured privatisation for its own sake and damaged the morale
and ethos of the public service. This Government will adopt a pragmatic
approach, using competition to deliver improvements. This means looking
hard but not dogmatically at what services government can best
provide itself, what should be contracted to the private sector, and
what should be done in partnership.
Making a start
6. The Government has developed a number of levers to drive up standards in public services:
The Comprehensive Spending Review
established a new approach to improving service delivery. We provided
significant additional resources for key services and made it clear
that this money would be used for modernisation and investment in
The new Public Service Agreements
(PSAs) for the first time set out in detail what people can expect in
return for this substantial new investment. In some areas, such as
criminal justice and action against illegal drugs, results will only be
delivered effectively if different organisations co-operate.
Cross-cutting Public Service Agreements define what needs to be
achieved through joint action.
|Key manifesto pledges on service standards incorporated in PSA targets
to cut infant class sizes to 30 or under for 5, 6 and 7 years olds by September 2001.
to reduce the time taken from arrest to sentence for persistent young offenders from 142 to 71 days.
to cut NHS waiting lists by 100,000 over the lifetime of the
Parliament and to deliver a consequential reduction in average waiting
times by May 2002.
to get 250,000 under 25 year olds off benefit and into work by using money from the windfall tax.
- The Government has developed a new approach to public expenditure planning and control.
In place of annual plans, we have wherever possible set firm
three-year spending plans for Departments. To bring an end to the rush
to spend money at the end of the financial year, we have increased the
scope to carry forward unspent provision. The introduction of resource
accounting and budgeting will replace the archaic use of cash-based
accounting. This will mean better linkages between the resources we put
in and what we achieve, and will increase the incentives for assets to
be managed effectively.
- The Government is doing more to develop its commercial
skills, so that we can work more productively in partnership with
industry to get the best deal for users. In the defence field, our
Smart Procurement Initiative will transform the way equipment is
procured. Independent reviews of central government procurement and the
Private Finance Initiative will together strengthen our performance by
making better use of public-private partnerships and closer
collaboration between organisations. In construction, we have put in
place a three-year strategy for achieving excellence as a client, and
are working jointly with the construction industry to re-think and
improve our management of public sector projects. Altogether we are
sharpening up co-ordination of government's commercial activities,
making better use of our skills, and exercising more influence with
- Ministers and their Departments will be held to delivery
of the priorities set out in the PSAs. The Government will ensure that
these priorities are cascaded through the targets and measures
which will be set for all public bodies, in consultations with those
who receive services. On both targets and inspections, we will focus on
key outcomes and strike an appropriate balance between intervening
where services are failing and giving successful organisations the
freedom to manage.
|The new mechanisms for managing delivery
Comprehensive Spending Review, setting out for the first time a co-ordinated set of objectives covering all public spending.
Public Service Agreements, setting out for the first
time firm targets for improving services over the next three years.
Shifting the focus decisively from inputs to the outcomes that matter.
New Cabinet Committee (PSX) monitoring progress on a regular basis with relevant Secretaries of State.
New Public Service Productivity Panel bringing together public and private sector expertise to help Departments achieve the improvements necessary.
Annual Report summarising progress for Parliament and the public.
|Four principles for performance management and inspection
Encourage a whole systems approach. We will put the
focus on assessing improvements in the effectiveness and value for
money of a whole system, such as the criminal justice system, not just
in its constituent parts.
Move from counting what goes in, to assessing what is being delivered.
We will keep
a tight rein on the management of resources. But we also need to know
what is being achieved with the money spent. The targets for government
Departments, as far as possible, are expressed either in terms of the
end results or service standards, and we are working to develop
measures for all levels of government which support this approach.
Intervene in inverse proportion to success. The
Government is not afraid to take action where standards slip. But we do
not want to run local services from the centre. Where services deliver
results we will give them greater freedom to innovate.
Use the right information at the right level. We want
managers to use performance measures to monitor and improve their
organisations. We do not want them to feel swamped by information
overload or bureaucratic requests for irrelevant data. We will use new
technology to take a more streamlined approach to managing information
in the public sector.
7. The Government is also determined to encourage innovation and share good practice. To do this:
we are working closely with the Public Audit Forum
which represents all
the national audit agencies to find ways of encouraging more modern
and effective forms of service delivery at local as well as central
level. Auditors are rightly interested in whether organisations obtain
value for money. We want them to be critical of opportunities missed by
sticking with the old ways, and
to support innovation and risk-taking when it is well thought through.
We welcome the Forum's statement that the national audit agencies will
respond positively and constructively to our Modernising Government
In future, people will no longer be able to use audit as an excuse
for not delivering more co-ordinated and efficient services.
we plan to get rid of unnecessary or outdated statutory burdens on public services, which prevent them delivering a modern service. We propose to extend the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994
to make it easier to remove burdens from public sector organisations.
We will also streamline the collection and sharing of data so that we
can better manage government information,
for example to help target efforts in tackling social exclusion.
we will identify organisations which would benefit from being given
additional scope to innovate, and consider how to give them appropriate
freedoms. We will do this in central government through the regular
reviews of agencies and Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs). In
local government, the second stage of the beacon councils initiative
will involve giving additional freedom and flexibility to those
councils which have shown an ability to excel. The Local Government
Association's New Commitment to Regeneration Pathfinders are also
considering what types of freedom and flexibility would support their
aim of regenerating local communities. We will build on these
approaches with other ways of allowing local service delivery units to
explore new ways of working. We will encourage staff to come forward
with suggestions for how services can be improved.
|The Auditor's approach to Modernising Government initiatives
Statement by the Public Audit Forum
"Modernising Government represents a significant change in the
public service environment, and its successful implementation will
require new ways of working. The goal of achieving more efficient and
effective delivery of public programmes is one that is shared between
public sector managers and auditors, and the Public Audit Forum do not
want fear of the risks of change to stifle worthwhile innovation
designed to lead to improvements. So we encourage auditors to respond
constructively and positively to Modernising Government initiatives and
support worthwhile change.
Public sector managers are of course responsible, as stewards of
public resources, for assessing and managing the risks associated with
innovation and increased flexibility, and for ensuring the proper
conduct of public business and the honest handling of public money
while pursuing innovative ways of securing improvements in public
services. It remains important to ensure proper accountability but this
must not be approached in a rigid way which might mean missing
opportunities to deliver better value for money. And auditors will
respond to this new environment positively and constructively by:
adopting an open-minded and supportive approach to innovation
(including the use of techniques tried elsewhere), examining how the
innovation has worked in practice and the extent to which value for
money has been achieved.
in the process, supporting well thought through risk-taking and experimentation.
consistent with their independent role, providing advice and
encouragement to managers implementing Modernising Government
initiatives by drawing on their audit work in this area, seeking to
identify and promote good practice so that experience can be shared and
In these ways, we believe auditors can support and encourage
worthwhile change, while providing independent scrutiny and assurance,
and fulfilling effectively their statutory and professional
The Ministry of Defence's staff suggestion scheme is the largest in
the country. It offers cash awards of £25 to £10,000 or more to staff
in the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces who have ideas that can
improve the management and delivery of defence. The scheme generates
ideas saving £15 million per annum and demonstrates that staff are full
of good ideas.|
8. When things are being done well, we
need to share good ideas across the great range of organisations
delivering different public services. To that end:
we have launched a Public Sector Benchmarking Project
to spread use of the Business Excellence Model across the public
sector. The Model is widely used
by leading private sector companies, but for the public sector this
project is the world leader in scale and ambition. It is helping to
spread best practice across boundaries, not just within the public
sector, but between public and private users of the Model and
internationally. Take-up of the Model has already reached 65% of
central government agencies and 30% of local authorities.
Over 90% of users report that their rate of improvement has increased
as a direct result.
- in the health sector, we are setting up the National
Institute for Clinical Excellence to provide a single focus for
guidance to clinicians about which treatments work best for which
patients. Good practice in NHS Trusts and primary care will also be
identified through the new NHS beacon services initiative.
- in local government, we have set out our plans to
establish centres of excellence by introducing the beacon council
scheme, designed to promote and recognise innovation in areas of
cross-cutting work. In addition, the Local Government Improvement and
Development Agency will act as champion of a best practice culture in
- in education, beacon schools are piloting a range of
initiatives to share ideas and approaches to teaching, and to pass on
expertise in a host of subjects.
- we have developed principles of good regulation and
enforcement. These recognise that regulations should be necessary,
fair, effective, balanced and enjoy a broad degree of public support.
The primary function of central and local government enforcement work
is to protect the public, the environment and groups such as workers.
But at the same time, we need to ensure that enforcement functions are
carried out in an equitable, practical and consistent manner in order
to promote a thriving national and local economy.
University Hospital Birmingham NHS Trust.
Cty Council Neighbourhood Advice & Information Service.
9. The Government is committed to achieving continuous improvement in central government policy making and service delivery.
To achieve this we have devised five principles: challenge, compare,
consult, compete and collaborate. We will use these to build on our
Best Value approach to local government and complement the existing
scrutiny of central government carried out by the National Audit Office
and by Parliament. We will offer these approaches as models for the
devolved administrations to consider in developing their own approaches
to continuous improvement.
is currently being introduced to replace compulsory competitive
tendering in local government. It is a rigorous system for delivering
high quality, responsive services
based on locally determined objectives and underpinned by performance
and independent inspection and audit in order to achieve continuous
10. Improving the quality and efficiency of public services requires a new approach to the question of who should supply services.
In recent years, the application of compulsory competitive tendering
and market testing has led too dogmatically to the use of private
sector suppliers. Although it delivered savings and efficiencies, this
was sometimes at the expense of quality. This Government will not make
the mistake of rigidly preferring private sector delivery over public
sector delivery, or vice versa. Instead, we will develop an approach
based on the straightforward idea of best supplier, retaining an open
mind about which supplier, public, private or partnership, can offer
the best deal.
11. Over the next five years, we will
review all central and local government department services and
activities by consulting widely with users, by benchmarking and by
open competition to identify the best supplier in each case.
The focus will be on end results and service standards, rather than
simply on processes. The aim will be
to secure the best quality and value for money for the taxpayer. We
also want clarity and certainty about the treatment of staff, and
wherever there is a change of service provider we will support staff by
presuming TUPE protections (Transfer of Undertakings Protection of
Employment regulations) apply. Winning suppliers will need to offer
improved quality, as well as better productivity and lower costs. And
because public service needs do not stand still, we expect best
suppliers to prove they can manage change and offer the public
continuous improvement. We will mount a co-ordinated programme across
the public sector based on common principles, embracing the
Better Quality Services initiative for central departments and
agencies, and Best Value
in local government.
12. To make sure we get the best supplier,
competition will be considered seriously as an option in every case.
Where internal restructuring without competition emerges as the
preferred solution, then for larger central government services, this
will be subject
to prior scrutiny by the Cabinet Office and Treasury. The Government
will take decisive action to deal with failing services, whether
supplied by the public or the private sector. A Committee of Ministers
(PSX) will monitor the performance of Departments in delivery of Better Quality Services, ensuring that reviews are robust and generate continuous improvements in quality and cost.
Premier Health NHS Trust Children's Centre.
Dyfed Powys Community policing.
13. The Government will take other steps to raise the quality of public services to the standards of the best, and to make the best better. We will:
encourage public sector organisations to adopt one of the main quality
management schemes. They deliver real improvements, whether in customer
service (Charter Mark),
the skills and motivation of staff (Investors in People), services and
processes (ISO 9000), or to the complete organisation (the Business
Barnsley Community and Priority Services NHS Trust
have 1998 Charter Mark, accreditation to ISO 9001 and IiP. These enable
objective and independent evaluation of the Trust's services. Having
the three awards enables the Trust to focus on different aspects of
quality across the entire organisation.
The London Borough of Southwark uses four quality
tools extensively. ISO 9000 is employed to improve processes and
Charter Mark for units dealing with the public. The quality of service
of Charter Marked units has noticeably improved. IiP is used to help
staff achieve overall objectives; while the Business Excellence Model
has been adopted to provide
a strategic overview.
The Land Registry's
mission is to be recognised as the most professional, efficient and
courteous public service in the UK. It monitors progress through the
Business Excellence Model, Charter Mark and IiP which collectively
provide a comprehensive 'health check'
a rigorous set of standards which help planning and direct the drive
for continuous improvement.
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||Prepared 30 March 1999|