Headlines: June 8th, 2001

The radical change in public services promised by Labour for its first term is much more likely to delivered in its second term. The last four years has seen a growing recognition that successful change cannot be delivered within the organization but needs to involve working across boundaries and through partnerships that cross between the public, voluntary and private sectors. Prime Minister Tony Blair summed up this recognition when he said: “Public services will not improve unless a range of private and voluntary organizations are allowed to deliver them.” He also said: “There will be no barriers and no dogmas.” Former small business minister Patricia Hewitt signaled the importance of public services to the new administration when she said: “Public service reform will be Labour’s toughest challenge in our second term.”The election campaign has brought insights into the way in which the ‘no boundaries no dogmas’ approach will be put into action. NHS trusts will be able ‘buy in’ services from the private sector and 20 treatment centers will be set up under public private partnerships. Private companies will be invited to run any schools not just those that are failing. Elsewhere in the public sector there are models of partnership working. Liverpool City Council has formed a company with BT to run council services. The London Borough of Croydon has set up a strategic partnership with Capita. These developments by innovative pioneers are likely to become the norm.

This new approach is already stimulating responses and Ministers and local government leaders are being asked to support a third way approach for service delivery and put social enterprise on an equal footing with private companies.

The determination of the new Administration to make change happen is clear in the proposal for a ‘policy delivery unit’ within the Cabinet Office. The new unit will focus the core of government on delivery and seek to change the culture of the Civil Service to put greater emphasis on project management and delivery. It is believed that outside people will come into the new unit, which may be headed by Lord Birt, who earned a reputation as a bureaucracy buster at the BBC.