Headlines: January 16th, 2007



In a move to respond to the growing dissatisfaction with public services the Government has launched a public engagement initiative to find out what people expect the state to provide. The public are becoming less satisfied according to research published by MORI. The satisfaction rate has dropped from 56% in 1998 to 48% in 2004. These figures show that greater investment and demonstrable improvements in performance have failed to match the rising expectations of service users.

Technology, higher living standards and daily experiences as consumers in the high street, supermarket and on the internet mean that the public services users increasingly view themselves as ‘customers’ with the right to expect and demand high standards. The initiative will seek to find out how people want to interact with government and services in the future.

The initiative includes citizen forums which go beyond usual polling methods by asking participants not just to act as citizens but to put themselves in the shoes of Ministers faced with tough choices. The forums will be made up of 100 independently selected members, representative of the population, and they will recruit ‘ordinary people’ drawn from all walks of life.

Deliberative techniques will be used to get to real engagement and insight on the issues. Forum members will be asked such questions as: How can public services make a step change on customer care? Is greater local variation in services acceptable? Would their behaviour change if it enabled improved customer service? What degree of personalisation do people want from public services – at what cost?

The forums will meet across the country in February and there will be a London summit to discuss conclusions in March.

The initiative is being co-ordinated by the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit, which will draw together existing research and evidence from a wide range of sources including public views and attitudes. Findings will be presented to the Cabinet to inform public service agreements and the forthcoming spending review.