Headlines: December 9th, 2009

Front line organisations across the country will soon be involved in the budget cutting Total Place initiative. The savings from Total Place will be achieved by all public sector organisations in every area getting together to find out how much taxpayer’s money they spend and then searching for ways to cut costs and do a better job. But a Publicnet survey has revealed that most public bodies know nothing about Total Place, because Whitehall departments have remained silent.

Total Place was launched by the Treasury in April 2009 in its Operational Efficiency Programme. Communities and Local Government, who are leading the initiative, launched 13 pilot projects in June 2009 with a local council in the driving seat in each locality. The initiative is steered by a ministerial group where all departments are represented.

The Publicnet survey revealed almost complete ignorance of Total Place outside local government. The exceptions were those places where the 13 pilot projects are operating. In the pilot areas, police forces, Job Centre Plus, Learning and Skills councils and the Probation Service have been encouraged by their parent department to cooperate. But NHS trusts, who are among the biggest spenders of taxpayers money, have heard noting from the Department of Health.

Spokespersons for the Home Office, Departments of Work and Pension and the Ministry of Justice said no advice had gone locally, other than to the pilots. Most felt it was the responsibility of Communities and Local Government, as the lead department, to publicise the initiative beyond the pilot projects. The result is that no information about Total Place has gone out to more than 1000 public bodies who will be involved.

A poll by Publicnet of readers of Publicnet Briefing, the daily email service, found that Total Place was also little known across local government. Over 73% of respondents said there had been no or very little publicity about Total Place within their council. Over 60% said they had gleaned little or no information from outside sources and over 53% did not know if their council was involved in a pilot project. Some respondents gave a top rating about publicity and involvement and this indicates that where a pilot project was in place there has been publicity and council members and officers are in the picture.