The Total Place timetable creates a high speed record for a nation-wide initiative involving so many people in different organizations. The Total Place initiative has the potential to transform public services and shift decision making to managers at the sharp end.
With an unprecedented number of project teams working in thirteen areas across the country and a target to map out a nationwide programme to take the initiative forward by Spring 2010, there is extreme haste to deliver results. The public sector needs to find radical solutions to maintain services with slimmer budgets in the years ahead and Total Place is seen as a means to rethink ways to meet the needs of people and produce a step change in services.
Initial reports from the 13 pilots with interim findings and indications of their direction of travel have been sent to the Ministerial group which is steering the initiative. The group will meet shortly to identify priority areas. Final reports from the pilots are due in January 2010. Ministers will then agree policy changes to open up changes agreed and the final Total Place report will be published in February 2010. This will include an action plan to take the initiative forward across the country and an estimate of potential savings.
Total Place is a catalyst for innovation rather than a methodology. The culture change it produces makes innovation legitimate and so overcomes many barriers. The process starts by mapping the total amount of public money spent by all organizations in a geographical area. The map is then used as an agenda to bring the organizations together to find better ways of meeting needs to deliver a better service at a lower cost.
Adopting this approach makes it possible to get a deeper understanding of what the community actually needs, it creates space for local innovation and it fosters cooperation between public services locally and with central government.
Joined up working by public bodies has progressed slowly in the past decade, but Total Place opens the way for a rapid advance. For a joined-up approach to succeed it needs to be applied at all levels and Chris Leslie, director of the New Local Government Network, has called for government regulators, such as the National Audit Office and Audit Commission to merge to reflect increased cross-departmental working.