Book News: November 28th, 2003

The Strategy Unit in the Cabinet Office has surveyed the long term trends that make up the environment in which public services will function in the future. It sets out the main challenges and opportunities facing the country and the choices to be made in addressing them. It does not represent government policy. The Strategic Audit is intended primarily for central departments to provide a backcloth against which to develop policies. It is also a valuable aid for anyone in public service concerned with developing strategies because it gives indications about emergent strategic issues and areas where new initiatives are likely to appear from Whitehall.It sets out the Government’s vision of where the UK should be in 10-15 years. Future public confidence in government as a whole will depend on improving the quality of public services, with limited resources, and defining a new partnership between state and citizen. Confidence will also depend on improving people’s sense of order, cutting crime and enhancing public safety. Public services are still too variable in performance. Reform, more than resources, is seen as the key to sharp improvements in public service productivity and public satisfaction. Step changes in public service productivity mostly come from introducing radical reform programmes that are strategic, coherent, evidence-based, and implemented with consistent political will.

Public services will need to put even more emphasis on coherent reform strategies, including transparent performance information, which may ease the need for targets, devolution in some areas but also standardisation in others to exploit economies of scale for example IT and knowledge management. Strategies will also be needed to motivate staff, energise leaders and provide much greater choice for the public.

These strategies will also need to include systematic approaches to innovation to test out more radical options and encouragement of new entrants with higher productivity potential (in the private sector 40% of productivity gain comes from new entrants). There will also need to be faster learning and replication of successful approaches, and radical simplification to cut bureaucracy.

The Strategic Audiit is available at