Devolution will only work if public services are reformed

Despite the PM’s recent pledge to prioritise public service reform, and give local areas more power, a new report argues that public services are still not meeting the needs of citizens. Accessing local services, such as health, social care, education and employment services, continues to be a confusing, frustrating and time-consuming process.

The ‘Joining Up Public Services Around Local, Citizen Needs’ report, published today by the Institute for Government, outlines the challenges successive governments have faced when attempting to reform the local delivery of public services, from Tony Blair’s New Deal to David Cameron’s Troubled Families project.

The report also argues that while the Spending Review presents an opportunity to reform public services, it also puts these reforms at risk if not done properly. Publicly-funded organisations are working hard to maintain business-as-usual activities, and their instinct now may be to protect, rather than join up, shrinking budgets and resources.  

Jo Casebourne, IfG project director and co-author, said:

“The Chancellor’s ‘devolution revolution’ will give more power to local government, but our research shows it will not be a panacea. That’s not to say devolution is the wrong policy, but that it requires new ways of working at all levels of government – local, central and front-line. This paper provides a starting point for thinking about how to effectively partner at the local level so this reform agenda meets the needs of citizens.”

Public service reform can be achieved if the right building blocks are in place, and the report offers insights on how to overcome some of the barriers that have got in the way of previous reform agendas. These include agreeing clear goals to help front-line organisations prioritise resources effectively, and physically bringing organisations together to overcome cultural differences and data sharing challenges.

The Institute for Government will continue to look at how public services can be reformed to better meet the needs of local people. This will include providing practical support and challenge to local partners trying to work together on the ground, and finding effective ways to share ideas and best practice.

For more information, please contact Nicole Valentinuzzi on 07850313791.

ENDS

Notes to editors

  1. The full report ‘Joining up public services around local, citizen needs’ can be found here: www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/publications/joining-up-local-services
  2. This report is the first of a major research project on public service delivery at a local level in England. Further outputs will follow in 2016.
  3. The Institute for Government is an independent charity founded in 2008 to help make government more effective
Associated projects: