Headlines: April 7th, 2006

The Future Services Network has launched a campaign to get greater public voice in public services and to make services more flexible to respond to people’s needs. The network, which is committed to speed up the pace of public service reform, is a coalition of the National Consumer Council, the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations and the Confederation of British Industry. Its aim is to create a consumer lobby as effective as those long-established in the United States and Australia.Supporting the campaign launch, Cabinet Office Minister Jim Murphy said that the major challenge will be to develop a more strategic approach to service provision. Individuals and local communities should be given a real voice over key decisions about public services. Both at a neighbourhood level and at a government level, the citizen’s voice should be heard, whether through consumer boards, user group representation, direct consultation, citizens’ juries or other means. There should also be regular feedback so that citizens can find out how their participation has changed services for the better.

The Minister also emphasised the need for a rigorous and consistent measure of customer satisfaction so that the public can clearly see how services compare over time and providers can gauge customer satisfaction. It should also be made clear who is responsible for each element of service delivery, so that public service consumers know who to hold to account for what. Where services are not up to scratch, local communities should have the power to review service provision.

The Network has a calendar of events planned including a summit in June which will examine the role of Voluntary Sector in Public Service, investigate the Third Sector/Private Sector relationship and challenges and address the diversity of Consumer needs across the Three Sectors. Between the April launch and the June summit, there will be work-streams for developing the private sector and voluntary partnership to deliver improved public services and for building the consumer advocate model, to promote and protect the needs of the consumer.