Headlines: July 17th, 2001

Prime Minister Tony Blair has given a commitment to accelerate the reform of public services with substantial investment. He set out his belief that investment will only produce results if it levers in change, because without change money is simply wasted on outdated practices. Much of the new money will be spent on more and better rewarded staff. Front line staff will have more power, their terms and conditions of employment will be geared to proper recognition for the work they do and there will be real incentives for better performance.He said that in the 1980s the business entrepreneurs who turned their ideas into successful companies were celebrated. In this early part of the 21st century, we need to celebrate the social entrepreneurs who turn their ideas into successful schools, universities, better healthcare, crime prevention and detection, better public transport, more responsive and effective government.

The Prime Minister confirmed that the strategy for management of public services is to relax the grip at the center and promote local innovation. Power will be devolved to frontline professionals with the aim of setting them free to innovate and develop the services needed.

The role of the center will now be to set national standards in the form of a frameworks of national priorities. Frameworks have already been created for education and health. The principle is being put into practice in local government through local public service agreements. The Home Office is now setting up a standards unit to devise a framework for the criminal justice system.

The way in which national standards are delivered will be monitored through the current systems of accountability, inspection, and intervention. The challenge will be to ensure that standards are maintained across the country.

The Prime Minister also made it clear that he believes that the benefits of engagement with the private and voluntary sectors are real and immediate. In all areas, what counts is what provides a better public service for the consumer. There is a commitment to better public services and no vested interests can have a veto on reform.