Headlines: July 17th, 2006

Local government and health service leaders in Wales have been urged to support public service reforms set out in a report produced by Sir Jeremy Beecham, vice-chairman of the Local Government Association. The call to public service leaders and representatives of business and the voluntary sector was made by the First Minister for Wales, Rhodri Morgan.He told them the need for reform was pressing but Wales had the opportunity to make its public services “the best in class”. He committed the Welsh Assembly Government to working with other public bodies to achieve the reforms set out in the Beecham Report which was published last week.

“Jeremy Beecham and his outstandingly high powered team of committed experts have confirmed our view that the most effective transformation of public delivery can be achieved by ensuring that existing institutions co-operate constructively, consistently and whole heartedly rather than recommending a further round of restructuring,” Mr. Morgan said. Sir Jeremy, he added, had also confirmed the Assembly Government’s view that as a small country Wales could achieve more by leading, incentivising and requiring collaborations between organisations than by promoting competition between them.

He praised public bodies that had already embraced the change agenda and pointed to examples of collaboration between local authorities and across sectors. For example, he said, it was recognised that local authorities, health boards as well as the business and voluntary sectors were suffering from a lack of trained social care staff, so rather than competing with each other for the limited number available they have formed regional partnerships to build capacity. In North Wales, Mr. Morgan said, health trusts and local health boards were about to implement a shared system for their business and financial services.This would be a pilot scheme for the rest of the NHS in Wales and for other areas of public service.

Mr. Morgan said the challenge for the public sector was to get more public service from the resources available and to get services to respond to the needs of people and communities. “We are clearly on the right track but our reforms have to go further and faster and the Welsh Assembly Government will be publishing a detailed action plan for public service reforms in September, “ he said.