Reform of Public Services is not delivering

26.06.2013

The patchy progress being made to improve public services across Scotland needs to be addressed now according to the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Regeneration Committee in a report issued today (26 June).

The report concludes the Committee’s inquiry into public services reform which has spanned 16 months and has seen the Committee look at how public services operate in Scotland.

Whilst recognising that public services reform is an ongoing process, the Committee was disappointed by the patchy progress and a systemic lack of appetite for change amongst stakeholders, many of whom lack the ‘can-do’ attitude needed to drive reform.

Committee Convener Kevin Stewart MSP said:

“During the course of our inquiry, we have seen examples of different public services working together, working with the community and working to achieve change. However, these examples are rare and far outweighed by those who are resistant to making change and resistant to working together to bring real change into the hearts of communities across Scotland. There is a big gap between rhetoric and reality.”

During the course of the inquiry, the Committee heard that Community Planning Partnerships (CPPs), which were established to create a link between communities and the public sector, have failed to deliver the promised improvements to public services.

Kevin Stewart MSP continued: 

 “It is clear to us that Community Planning Partnerships are simply not delivering. There is a lack of leadership and poor communications and many are disconnected from the people they serve.  This has meant little improvement in services or prospects for some of Scotland’s most disadvantaged communities. 

“It is clear to us that change works best when it starts with communities and when public services listen to what these have to say. But too often people living and working in communities are ignored and when they are consulted, they are not listened to.  We have seen for ourselves the success of community led changes and public bodies must alter their approach and attitude to those to whom they supply services for this change to happen across Scotland.

“Far too many excuses are put in the way of action and the speed, scale and nature of the change within public services is simply not adequate.”

As part of the inquiry the Committee met with representatives from community organisations across Scotland and heard that there was little evidence of public services listening to the communities in which they operate and working with them to promote change.

The Committee report has also come to the following conclusions:

  • That public services reform is not happening at the rate or scale that is needed or desired, or in a consistent way and that it is all too often driven by external factors, often financial.
  • There is no discernible pattern in the delivery of public service reform or improvements to services and although the Committee was told that activity was everywhere, success seems patchy at best.
  • The Committee considers that many CPPs are not delivering and that there is little evidence of the improvements in public services that they were intended to bring.
  • Deep seated attitudes and behaviours lead many staff to perceive and hide behind barriers that are hindering progress. It was clear to the Committee that too many of those engaged in public services reform are risk averse fearing failure with staff not empowered or able to innovate.
  • Too many CPPs are seen as disconnected from the people they serve.  Leadership has been lacking and communication at all levels poor. In practice this has meant little real improvement in services or prospects for some of Scotland’s most disadvantaged communities. 
  • The success of the newly created National Community Planning Group will be judged by the value it adds in such areas as setting national priorities, co-ordinating actions, providing guidance, and above all in promoting the Christie Commission’s vision of public services reform.

Background

In 2010, the Scottish Government  established the Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services which was chaired by Dr Campbell Christie CBE, and operated independently of government (known commonly as the Christie Commission). The Commission delivered a series of recommendations on the future of public services in Scotland in June 2011.

This report concludes the third and final strand of the Committee’s inquiry into public services reform.  The first strand ¬examined how local councils work with community planning partners such as police, NHS boards and local communities. The second strand focussed on benchmarking and the process of comparing performance in the same service across different councils. Copies of the Committee’s previous reports can be accessed via the Committee’s webpages:

Local Government and Regeneration Committee Homepage.