Headlines: April 25th, 2001

Rod Aldridge, the Executive Chairman of Capita, the support services provider, has a vision of the public sector creating strategic partnerships with privates sector companies to transform the way services are delivered. Speaking to the Public Management and Policy Association he questioned the capacity of public bodies, either on their own or collaborating with each other, to deliver the modernization agenda that politicians and the public want. Because transformation demands a change in culture, access to expertise and capital investment, the private sector must play a significant role.He argued that it is highly inefficient for 300 councils to have their own processes and staff to collect council tax and for the NHS to have support sites serving small groups of Trusts. The creation of ‘business centres’ to handle common tasks would deliver big savings which could be plough back into front line services.

Another aspect of his vision is a management that is less committed to the way things have been done in the past and more willing to take risks and to share risk with private companies. This in turn would lead to a marked reduction in tribalism which would allow cross boundary working and bring an end to the silo approach.

For the vision to become a reality change must start at the center with the senior civil service. This would involve appointing more people from outside the civil service to senior posts. There would also need to be a more porous policy process taking in advice from a wider range of experts, not just academics.

Richard Kemp, a Liverpool City councilor, said the public sector now has an unprecedented opportunity to transform itself and deliver the services people want to see. He pleaded for a wider debate on how transformation might be achieved.

Capita was founded in 1985 and has 11,000 staff. It provides support services to the public and private sectors.