Book News: December 12th, 2006

By Sir David VarneyThe review was commission by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is concerned with how to save government, citizens and business time and money by examining the scope for integrating front-line service delivery.

Social, demographic and technological changes continue apace and there are increasing challenges to keep up with the best in the private sector. Differences between the public and private sector are likely to grow over the next decade unless public sector service delivery is further transformed. The leading edge of the new service economy that has emerged from the private sector is much slicker, more immediate, more convenient to the citizen and less intrusive on the busy citizen’s time. The focus is increasingly on the totality of the relationship with the citizen.

Front line public services generally are not joined up. Departments and agencies focus on the supply of specific products rather than taking a citizen or business-led approach. Services are developed independently of each other. This leaves the citizen or business to join up the public service island economy to meet their needs. The Review highlights a typical case in which a citizen needed to contact government 44 times following a bereavement.

The Review identifies the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review as an opportunity to coordinate services more directly around the needs of citizens and businesses and to deal with more problems at the first point of contact. In the 2007 Review improved performance would come from coordination of front-line e-services, contact centres and local offices and reducing duplication of business processes through shared use of an identity management system. Over the longer term further efficiencies and service enhancements could be made by reducing the back office functions that would no longer be required.

Service delivery would be grouped around common service ‘themes’ that are meaningful for citizens and businesses, starting with change of circumstances associated with bereavement, birth and change of address.

Also in the short term proposals should be developed for a cross-government identity management system to enable greater personalisation of services and to reduce duplication across government. To achieve this, data would be shared between HM Revenue and Customs, Department for Work and Pensions and 12 local authorities.

The Review is available at: