Headlines: September 18th, 2000

Electronic service delivery will transform the way the public sector does business. In the next 5 years traditional physical channels for dealing with the public, such as face to face and letters and forms, will be replaced electronic channels. A report by the Performance and Innovation Unit in the Cabinet Office reveals that there are few plans to deal with this wholesale transformation of public services.The report highlights not only the impact of the switch to electronic service delivery, but it also presents a sketch of the competition public bodies will face from the private and voluntary sectors in what it describes as the G2C (government to citizen) market. The competition has already emerged and Publicnet recently reported that Impower now offers a fishing licence service through the Internet and Cityspace provides a facility to renew TV licences through kiosks in high streets.

The switch to electronic channels combined with competition will bring unprecedented change. There will be increased demand for staff with ITC and customer support skills, but this will be far outweighed by reduced need for staff who now work in the physical channels and back offices. The experience of Barclays is that customers using bank branches reduced by 20% between 1994 and 1999. Translating this to the public sector, where there are similarities, it could mean a loss in staff of between 10-20% in the next 5 years. This would mean that of the 750,000 currently employed in administrative tasks in central and local government, between 75,000 to 150,000 will have lost their jobs by 2005. The shedding process has started with the announcement by the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food that 1400 staff will be made redundant as a result of computerising support payments to farmers.

Because of the implications for early retirement and redundancy payments, the report recommends that the Treasury should commission a study to examine the implications of electronic service delivery. It also recommends that the Cabinet should consider the issue twice yearly, with the first meeting in October 2000.

Link http://www.cabinet-office.gov.uk/innovation/2000/delivery/intro.htm