Abstracts: January 4th, 2006

Strategic Regulation was pioneered by the Audit Commission and is the heart of the current Strategic Plan. The Commission is now seeking views so it can set a clear vision of how, as an independent watchdog, it can help improve local services by focusing on value for money, and by addressing the interests of both the taxpayer and the service user. In order to get the focus right, the Commission wants to know what others think should be its top three priorities for the coming year.The consultation documents sets out the Commission’s view of the changes that will affect the public sector scene in the medium term and it wants feedback on the scenarios it presents. Among the factors which it sees as driving change are advances in technology which are raising people’s expectations of both public and private sector services, as well as providing solutions that meet their aspirations. It sees an older, more consumerist population demanding a wider range of bespoke services delivered in more user-friendly ways. The growing investment in public services, especially the NHS, is coming to an end. There will be downward pressure on public spending as the proportion of the population of working age decreases. Public services will be required to deliver more efficient, user-focused, sustainable services with greater transparency and accountability.

Local services will be particularly influenced by the trend towards devolution to the frontline. Local commissioners and providers will decide how services should be delivered. Partnership working will mean that commissioners and providers can pool their resources and coordinate their efforts to deliver complex, cross-cutting services.

This will also be affected by greater movement towards a mixed economy of public, private and voluntary sector providers with flexibility to meet the full range of local needs.

The consultation document is available at: http://www.auditcommission.gov.uk/aboutus/downloads/StrategicPlanConsultation