Public services: from austerity to transformation brochure

Reform publishes “Public services: from austerity to transformation” conference brochure, with articles by Lord Victor Adebowale, Dr Aisha Bin Bishr, Beverley Bryant, Dr David Halpern, Robert Pollock, Professor Hans Rosling, Sean Shine, Chris Sims QPM, Jonathan Slater and Nick Williams

Reform Comment

In 2010 the Coalition Government made reducing public expenditure the overriding goal of the Parliament. To meet the scale of savings this largely meant stopping doing things. Departmental expenditure was reduced by around £35 billion, with pay freezes, headcount reductions, contract renegotiations and restricting eligibility for certain services at the heart of this. As the 2015 Queen’s speech stated “bringing the public finances under control and reducing the deficit” remain a priority, but in this Parliament that will mean much more transformative reform. It must be about re-designing public services in a way that delivers lower costs and better outcomes.

In his first speech as Minister for the Cabinet Office, Matthew Hancock said:

“It’s not just the public finances that present a challenge. Government is also being challenged to do more by the public themselves.

Expectations have never been higher. In almost every area of life, there is more choice, more readily, more digitally available, more attuned to our needs, more personalised and less patronising than ever before. We must make it so with public services too.”

In this the Government has a tough task. Shifting citizen expectations, an ageing population, and fast paced technological change requires reforms that, as far as possible, future-proof public services. Tweaking processes, plastering over legacy systems and fiddling with service models will be wholly inadequate. An ambitious, cross-departmental approach is needed.

Reform is delighted to be partnering with Accenture to explore how this can be achieved. During the course of the conference we will consider how the Government can build a new public service model fit for 2020 which is ambitious, disruptive and collaborative.

Reform in any sector is too often hindered by orthodoxies. Change is rejected as not fitting with accepted norms. The first panel seeks to address the common challenges that routinely hamper public service reform, drawing on real life experiences of ambitious service transformation. It will consider how these reformers overcame the ‘usual’ barriers to change and how these lessons can be applied more widely.

The second panel will explore how an ambitious rethinking of the purpose and form of public services can enable the Government to meet the needs and expectations of their citizens whilst simultaneously reducing costs. It will consider what it takes to deliver an ambitious vision for public services, drawing from the experience of those who have translated big ideas into practical service transformation.

As the private sector continues to disrupt and innovate, public services are increasingly looking antiquated. The third panel will look at how government can themselves become the disrupter, overcoming the traditional view of public services as bureaucratic and reactive rather than flexible and forward-looking.

The final panel will look at how effective collaborative working can help achieve an ambitious vision. ‘Multi-agency working’ has long been a buzz phrase, and initiatives like the Troubled Families programme have tried to overcome budgetary and organisational barriers. However despite this, and unlike citizens’ lives, public services remain largely siloed. Modern public services must be integrated. This session will explore how strong working relationships can be developed across organisational and sector boundaries.

As the Cabinet Office Minster also said in his speech: “There’s a huge prize at stake if we get this right.” Delivering an ambitious agenda of public service reform will be challenging, but it is the only option. Better services and lower costs will make the effort more than worthwhile.

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A link to the full Storify can be found here.


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