The Public Sector Benchmarking Service, launched recently, was claimed to be a way to avoid the waste of reinventing the wheel and a real opportunity for sharing knowledge and making things happen. It provides a comprehensive advisory service for anyone working in the Public Sector, explaining processes, finding potential partners and putting people in touch with others who have undertaken similar exercises. The Service is a joint venture between the Cabinet Office and Customs and Excise and was described at the launch as an excellent example of joined up government in action.The extent to which the Service is ‘joined up’ was revealed by a Customs spokesperson who was unaware that any similar service was operating in the public sector, despite the official statement that “the Service will complement anything that is going on elsewhere and will support and assist each of the government’s public service reform initiatives-Better Quality Services in central government, Best Value in local government and the NHS plans”.
The Civil Service College established a benchmarking service three years ago and has built up a database of some 400 organizations and their processes. They provide guidance on benchmarking projects, match assessment scores on the database and find comparator organizations when a central government department or agency, local council, NHS trust or police force want to find out why someone is performing better. They issue a monthly publication giving guidance on different aspects of benchmarking. A Civil Service College spokesperson replied: “No comment” when asked how the newly launched Benchmarking Service related to what is on offer from the College.
The Civil Service College is a Directorate within the Centre for Management and Policy Studies, which is part of the Cabinet Office.
There are a number of benchmarking clubs in the public sector, but the principal sources of expertise, in addition to the College, are the Improvement and Development Agency, the Local Government Benchmarking Reference Centre and the health service Benchmarking Centre.