Too many public service partnerships are being created and sometimes they address the wrong sorts of problem. This is the conclusion of a working group of the Public Services Productivity Panel set up by the Treasury. The popularity of partnerships has grown because of the increasing interdependencies between public bodies as they tackle some of the most difficult social challenges. Multiple-factor problems demand new ways of working, but a partnership is not always the answer.The working group found a proliferation of partnerships in some areas with the result that even the most necessary and successful partnerships achieved less than they might otherwise expect. They also found that the consequences of a failed partnership in an area can be long-term because of the damage done to trust between the organizationsinvolved and hence the prospect for future joint working.
This report follows a warning last month from Local Government Minister Nick Raynsford who quoted an example of over 100 partnerships doing similar things in one locality. He urged the Local Strategic Partnerships, who are the umbrella organizations for managing partnerships in each locality, to look at their partnership map and cut back where possible.
The Working Group recommends that because there is no coherent control over their proliferation of partnerships a central body should be given the authority to act as a gatekeeper, with a remit to examine all proposals that could lead to the creation of partnerships. Before a partnership is set up the need for the issue to be tackled on multiple levels should be examined. If a wide range of people representing different organizations is not essential, then the initiative may well be delivered more effectively by a single organization, or two or more employing better methods of joint-working.
The Working group also wants to see a website offering practical help and advice to people working in all types of partnerships. It could function as a database of best practice for a range of partnership working issues, a portal to government guidance, as well as providing links to other resources not produced by the Government.