Headlines: February 12th, 2004

The administration of Charter Mark, the prestigious award for excellence in public service has been handed over to four contractors. The Cabinet Office retains ownership of the scheme and will continue to promote its benefits to the public sector. The move was prompted by the cost of assessment which smaller organizations were reluctant to meet and by the limitations of the Cabinet Office budget which could only fund a small assessment team.The four assessment companies, who work to an agreed benchmark for services, have been accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service. Assessment charges are on a graded scale depending on the size of the candidate organization. The companies are in competition with each other and they will provide quotes to potential candidates for the award.

More than 2400 Charter Marks have been awarded to organizations that have found practical ways of holding to the first principles of customer service: listening to customers, learning from customers and delivering the service customers want. The assessment criteria have been revised to reflect the Government’s reform programme and they now include performance standards, devolution, flexibility and choice.

Public bodies can make a self assessment of where they are on the road to excellence and decide whether they are ready to make a bid for the award. The toolkit allows users to input data about their organization against six criteria. The report produced by the system will inform a decision about whether the organization is ready to apply formally for Charter Mark. The Charter Mark self assessment toolkit is at http://www.cabinet-office.gov.uk/chartermark/apply/sat/criteria_intro.htm

A Mori survey found that Charter Mark organisations had an increased customer focus, improved staff morale and a more effective service delivery. The Charter Mark also helps central government to keep in touch with the best examples of innovative public services and this information feeds into central thinking.