Civil Service culture change on the way

Headlines: September 29th, 1997

Civil servants are to be exposed to the impact of their department’s policies and the rules they devise when they attend MP’s surgeries. This is one of the ways in which the Office for Public Service is seeking to change civil service culture by broadening the experience of staff. Dr David Clark, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said: “By visiting MPs’ surgeries I am convinced that civil servants would gain at first hand from hearing about the issues which concern people, as well as getting a better idea of the role that MPs provide. This type of experience would benefit all those involved, enhancing understanding, and over time, delivering higher quality and better focused outcomes.”In a speech to civil service human resources leaders, Dr Clark hit out at the ‘forms and queues’ attitudes pervading much of the Civil Service. He said: “I think for too long people have associated government with two things: queues and forms. And there is a feeling among the public that government has been remote, unaccountable and too inflexible to meet their needs.”

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Wanted: re-energised Citizens Charter

Headlines: September 26th, 1997

David Clark, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, wants to know how to re-energised the citizens Charter. He said: “It is essential to re-energise the Charter programme and give it a more dynamic purpose. It is quite clear that the programme must focus more directly on the needs and wishes of the people who use and deliver public services on a daily basis.”He is seeking views on how best o breathe new life into the Charter programme. There will be consultations with members of the public, representatives and public bodies ranging from local and central government to consumer groups and think tanks.

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Councils raise standards – but could do better

Headlines: September 23rd, 1997

The message from the Audit Commission, which encourages auditors to bring better value for money from their audits, is that in 1995/96 local authorities did well in improving efficiency, but could do better. The Commission’s third annual survey of overall performance shows that the worst performing authorities in individual services had improved significantly. The 15 authorities which took longest to re-let empty council homes have improved their performance over the three years from 13.5 weeks in 1993/94 to 9.6 weeks in 1995/96. Overall, this is almost a 30% reduction in the length of time properties are left empty by those authorities.The average performing authorities have also improved. Processing of claims for council tax benefit has speeded up with claims processed within 14 days increasing from 80% to 84% compared to the previous year.

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£23m Package to combat social exclusion

Headlines: September 22nd, 1997

David Blunkett, Secretary of State for Education and Employment, has announced a £23 million package to help combat social exclusion. It will be targeted on poor attendance and behaviour problems.Bids will be invited later this month for projects in 1998-99:

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Publicity boosts taxpayer complaints

Headlines: September 19th, 1997

People who pay their dues to Inland Revenue, Customs & Excise and The Contributions Agency are becoming more aware that they can take their complaints to an independent arbitrator. Elizebeth Filkin, The Adjudicator for the three organisations, has published her annual report which shows a 10% increase in complaints investigated, compared to the previous year.Alan Reid of The Adjudicator’s Office said: “The increase in reported complaints is due mainly to more people knowing we are here. Publication of the report has already brought a steep rise in callers asking how they can complain. We expect that in the next month the call rate will increase about four times.”

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Partnership in crimebusting

Headlines: September 18th, 1997

Burglaries in Huddersfield have been cut by one third and theft from vehicles by one fifth. This crimebusting success has been achieved through a partnership between West Yorkshire police, Kirklees Council, Victim Support and Huddersfield University.The scheme, which was led the police and the council, was based on a graded response for victims of crime to prevent them from becoming victims again. Each response, which was labelled bronze, silver or gold, involved a sliding scale of extra police patrols or the installation of various security measures depending on whether people were first time or repeat victims.

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Spotlight on Local Government Management Board

Headlines: September 16th, 1997

The work and funding of the Local Government Management Board are to come under scrutiny in a review due to start shortly. The review has been prompted by the changing local government scene and particularly by the launch of the Local Government Association in April.The LGMB provides services and support to all local authorities in England and Wales. It has a particular focus on management, personnel and governance issues. Its functions include conducting national pay negotiations, developing good practice on the environment, running examinations and qualifications and developing top managers. It is governed by a Board of elected members nominated by the LGA.

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NHS moves away from internal market

Headlines: September 12th, 1997

The NHS is on course to move from the internal market to an approach based on fairness and co-operation. This policy direction was set out by Frank Dobson, Secretary of State for Health in Commissioning Guidance for 1998/99.The areas where greater fairness will be pusued include the distribution of resources between planned and urgent activity and between GP fundholders andnon-fundholders. There will also be common waiting time standards covering all patients within a Health Authority. These standards will be introduced from 1 April.

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Virtual government networking club set up

Headlines: September 10th, 1997

Peter Kilfoyle, Minister for Public Service, announced the setting up a networking club for organisations providing public services electronically. The club, to be know as direct link will enable central and local government departments and voluntary agencies to share ideas and methods, get help with problems and find out what works well.

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New Director to steer Government’s customer focus

Headlines: September 8th, 1997

Mark Addison has been appointed Director of the Better Regulation Unit at the Office of Public Service. He was Director of Safety Policy at the Health and Safety Executive for three years. He will play an important role in steering the policy and implementation of the Government’s thrust to move closer to a customer focus. The task of moving central and local authority services from a focus on the organisation with delivery arranged in compartments is daunting. An early target for this shift in thinking is planning application information, which at the moment comes from many sources and requires effort and persistence on the part of the business or individual seeking to find out what is involved and what has to be done.In the ‘new look’ approach services are being planned from the customers point of view. The elderly, the young and the voluntary sector have been identified as key groups for this development. For the longer term future services might concentrate on specific episodes in people’s lives such as becoming unemployed, reaching pension age, or buying a car licence.

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