The better our public services, the more we help those most in need, says PM David Cameron and Deputy PM Nick Clegg in the foreword to the White Paper. They point to the fact that it is often the disadvantaged and the poor who bear the brunt of poor services. Those who resist reform are labelled as putting producer interest before citizens’ needs.
So the government has signalled an end to the “old-fashioned, top-down, take-what-you-are-given model’ of public services. The Paper sets out five principles for modernisation:
Three different categories of public service are identified:
Much is given over to quick summaries of existing plans and initiatives, such as personal budgets, the social mobility strategy, the pupil premium, the Work Programme, student loans, the New Homes Bonus, the Localism Bill, payment by results, and the transparency agenda to provide data on service provision and performance – everything counts towards Open Public Services.
New ideas are floated. These include: a system of redress if choice is not available, probably through Ombudsmen; opening up the governance and accountability of all providers; the opportunity for parish, town and community councils to take greater control over local services.
With particular reference to the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector, a government response to the Modernising Commissioning Green Paper is promised shortly.
The pace, which was so characteristic of the plans setting out reform of the NHS, has been slowed down. Government acknowledges that the policy framework set out across public services cannot all be achieved at once. Further consultation is to be carried out on a number of fronts, and the White Paper itself poses a number of consultation questions.
An Open Public Service website has been set up where you can read the White Paper and submit comments until September.