Headlines: May 19th, 2011

The re-think on public service reform away from privatisation has brought innovation back to the agenda. Ministers now have evidence that innovation is a viable alternative.

The Bedfordshire Total Place partnership is taking forward initiatives that evolved from work done in pilot projects in 2009/10 that showed eliminating duplication of effort could improve services and cut costs. The Total Place pilot showed that two per cent of persistent offenders are responsible for almost a third of crime committed in the county and the average cost of dealing with these offenders is around £500,000 each per year. An integrated offender management model is being launched in the summer and it will bring together representatives from all justice organisations on one site.

In another move to improve services and cut costs, council advisors and Jobcentre Plus staff are being located under the same roof to provide a combined service to give customers to access a range of benefits available through the council together with employment support. This development has attracted ministerial interest and the employment minister is due to visit in June.

These initiatives, together with the evidence that emerged from the 2010 Total Place pilot reports, will allow ministers to re-focus the Open Public Services White paper on innovation, following the u-turn away from widespread privatisation. Further delay in publication, which was due in March 2010, is a clear sign that the Whiter Paper is being radically re-drafted.

It is also being suggested that the very limited scope of Community Budgets, confining the pilot projects to families with multiple needs, was a direct result of the original plan to allow private companies to bid for all public services on a level playing field. Extending the Total Place approach to the areas trialled in the pilot projects could have seriously hampered privatisation. This constraint has now been removed by limiting privatisation, possibly to match outsourcing to mutuals and social enterprises.