Headlines: April 30th, 2007



A new report from CPCR, a public sector specialist consultancy, reveals why partnership working is developing slowly and why progress in providing seamless public services is so difficult. Research for the report, carried out in the north east of England, revealed a number of barriers hampering joined up working including cultural and organisational issues

Partnerships are part of the Government’s wider reform agenda to improve the quality and responsiveness of public services. They bring together at a local level the different parts of the public sector including councils, the health service, central departments as well as the private, business, community and voluntary sectors. Up to 40 public bodies may be providing services in any one locality and the partnerships have to find ways to bring it all together so that people receive a seamless service.

CPCR researchers found that a culture to support partnership working is developing slowly with 47 percent of respondents believing that their organisation is not prepared to adapt its systems and processes to align them with a partner’s. Another cultural issue is recognition of achievement. Some 35 per cent of respondents stated that their people don’t gain as much recognition for succeeding in partnerships as they would for internal projects, making their contribution come a poor second in the eyes of their colleagues. A lack of organisational commitment to partnerships is shown in widespread communication failures with 44 per cent of respondents doubting that partnership activities are widely understood in their organisation.

Organisational issues which are acting as barriers include conflict resolution processes, with 61 per cent of respondents believing that their organisation does not have effective processes in place for addressing conflict within a partnership. Also 45 per cent of respondents have doubts as to whether roles within partnerships are being done by the best person for the job. More than a third said that it was unlikely that a single overall leader would be agreed for each partnership programme. Monitoring the effectiveness of partnerships was shown as another weakness with 35 per cent indicating that there are not the appropriate processes in place to generate continuous improvement in the efficiency and effectiveness of a partnership.

The report concludes that the leaders within public organisations surveyed believe there is some way to go before the Government’s aim of effective partnerships is a reality. There are still significant issues with flexibility, trust, measurement and strong leadership that need addressing to make partnering work for all parties.