Headlines: April 3rd, 2007



The system used by local government in Wales to engage people in public services could be a strong model for the rest of the United Kingdom, according to the New Local Government Network. In a new pamphlet it argues that the Welsh ‘bottom up’ approach restricts the level of ‘choice-based’ services and instead engages directly with citizens at every stage of service design and delivery.

The publication says the Welsh system uses the information that is gathered not for league-tables or to drive competition but to give people the means to become fully involved in policy decision-making. The report, entitled ‘Devolution and Divergence: Comparing English and Welsh approaches to citizen-centred public service delivery’, says that all citizens, and not just service users, need the opportunity, information and incentive to engage with services.

The author, Anthony Brand, argues that the Welsh model, which is based on the review on transforming public services carried out last year by Sir Jeremy Beecham, provides a framework and vision to bind authorities, citizens and other agencies together. He adds, “The Welsh approach strengthens the collaborative, community, bottom up approach to citizen-centred service provision. It relies on contributions from all parties at all stages and prioritises the synergy of views and ideas.”He warns, though, that the strategy might run into difficulties because it does not have a clear, step-by-step route-map for local authorities to follow and he highlights the potential danger of citizens becoming complicit in services’ failure to deliver. The report also cautions that England’s larger population might make it difficult to engage successfully with a representative sample of the population.