Headlines: April 27th, 2000

The 69 consumer champions appointed in February 2000 have met each other for the first time and learned from Cabinet Office Minister Ian McCartney what is expected from them. Their role is to spearhead the customer focus campaign that will embrace all public services. As well as central government agencies such as the Benefits Agency and Employment Service it will cover the health service, including hospitals and GPs, the emergency services – fire, police and ambulance, the courts and local council services including schools.It was made clear to the champions, who are all board level officials, that the customer focus campaign is a vehicle for changing the way public services are delivered and that their task is to steer the culture change. They are expected to achieve this change by using customer feedback and consultation to set improvement targets.

The Modernising government white paper published in March 1999 set out proposals to make services more responsive, but it was not until September 1999 when Cabinet Office mystery shoppers found virtually no movement towards responsiveness, that it became clear that a vigorous culture change initiative was required. The customer focus campaign and the appointment of the consumer champions is the response to this depressing picture.