Headlines: January 21st, 2009

Public services across the North East are delivering outcomes well below the English average, according to a report published by the Commission on Public Sector Reform in the North East.

The new report from the Commission, says that despite some notable improvements, the region has still not caught up with outcomes in other regions because it started out from a low base. Results in education show that in 1997, the North East was 7.6 per cent behind the national average for the number of pupils achieving 5 A*-C grades, but is now 0.9 per cent above it. Yet in health, while life expectancy rose for both men and women by three to four years between 1991 and 2007, people in the North East still live on average nearly one and a half years less than the national average, and more than two years less than people living in the South East.

The Commission, the first to be based in the region, is exploring how best to tackle the paradox of why public services in the North East achieve high performance scores yet the region still lags behind in key outcomes such as life expectancy and exam results. In local government, ten local authorities scored 4 stars in the latest CPA ratings and in health, 39 per cent of health authorities achieved an excellent score, compared to 26 per cent nationally.

The Commission will explore whether locally-rooted policies could lead to more rapid improvements. It will question whether the current system is too centrally controlled and if more devolved decision-making is needed for personalised public services to deliver better results.

Duncan Hiscock, Senior Research Fellow, ippr north and author of the report said: “Local solutions are imperative if we are to meet local challenges. But it seems that our current, centralised system only serves to stifle innovation while failing to reduce inequalities. The Commission is inviting public service providers and individuals to submit evidence on what they believe works best in our region.”