Headlines: February 6th, 2009

Plans to speed up public service reform have been outlined by a senior member of the Government. Liam Byrne, the Cabinet Office Minister, said the aim was to give more freedom to staff delivering services but to enforce basic standards of service.

At a Public Services summit he revealed proposals for a a smaller, stronger centre of government to speed up reform and to help Britain through the economic downturn. He said the plans, which are in addition to the more than 26 billion pounds of efficiency savings already achieved by the Civil Service, would improve accountability and give greater independence to frontline staff.

The measures include closing the gap between Whitehall policy and frontline delivery. Sir David Omand, Lord Victor Adebowale and Professor Ken Starkey, who have been looking at this will publish their findings shortly and have now been asked to work with the Minsiter to put their recommendations in place. There will also be a radical rethink of performance management in the Civil Service and steps to ensure that improvements to public services are based on the latest evidence and insight.

Mr. Byrne said people wanted an economy where performance matched potential, and a society of fair rules and fair chances. “As an extraordinary country, whose sense of invention helped define this age, we have an extraordinary future ahead of us. That future is well within our grasp but not unless government, the civil service, and our public services change with the world around us,” he said.

He added that success did not come from concentrating power in the hands of politicians or civil servants but from giving it to people. “We want a country of powerful people. And that is my guiding principle in the reform of public services,” he said.