Headlines: February 23rd, 2006

The Deal for Devolution will bring a radical shift from top down to bottom up performance measurement with citizen power challenging service providers who may be in the public, voluntary or private sectors. The proposed re-shaping of local government with a double devolution of power from Whitehall to the Town Hall, and from the Townhall to local communities, will result in the scrapping of the Comprehensive Performance Assessment regime. National standards, reflecting the Government’s priorities will remain, but inspection by the Audit Commission is likely to be restricted to specific situations. Public sector training experts say that this change opens up a skills gap in the local organizations delivering services.Local councils and other service providers will need to consider how the current performance framework can be re-balanced so that they can better respond to bottom up pressures to improve the quality. Although the latest statistics show that 70 per cent of councils are improving, critics argue that nearly half of all councils only provided minimal levels of value for money or below. With the star rating and tightened performance criteria introduced for this year, more councils are likely to fall into the under performance zone.

The new performance framework will require a major shift from production targets such as units produced and costs of production to services delivered. The key element will be meeting the needs of the customer. Councils and other providers will need to learn how to motivate their employees into providing better customer service to their businesses. Soft skills such as people management and emotional intelligence must be developed. The ability to undertake change more quickly and effectively to respond to customer needs will also need to be learned.

Arnie Skelton of Effective, a specialist public sector training and development company, said: “Passing quality control powers over to local people means that local councils will need to adapt in order to survive.”