Magazine article Public Finance

All Systems Go

Magazine article Public Finance

All Systems Go

Article excerpt

I was very pleased to receive the report of the Beecham review of local service delivery in Wales last week.

The report, Beyond boundaries, is an inclusive examination of the issues with no constraints, aimed at ensuring that all people across Wales receive high-quality, local services. It was commissioned by the Welsh Assembly Government following discussions with the Welsh Local Government Association.

The result is a landmark report that will undoubtedly be a major influence on how we think about public services in Wales for years to come. I am pleased to say that the report was welcomed by all parties last week and I have accepted its thrust.

Sir Jeremy Beecham appreciated our radical, citizen-centred approach to public services, as set out in Making the connections, our vision for public services in Wales. Our approach is about building on the strengths, and reflecting the demographics, of our small country. The ethos is to support public service deliverers to work together across organisational boundaries to provide efficient and effective services that meet the needs of individuals and communities.

Beecham praised this citizen model and was struck by the extent of support for it, across sectors and across political parties. The report recognises that we are on the right track - but that we need to progress further and faster if we are to provide efficient services that meet the changing demands and expectations of the citizen.

I welcome this message. The other big message in the report is that major structural reorganisation would be a distraction from the real business of improving services.

Collaboration is not a soft, cosy option - it is the opposite. It requires a fundamental change of attitude to service delivery. To deliver the Beecham vision of excellence in small country governance will require real, engaged leadership from the Assembly Government and other public service organisations; and from the voluntary and private sectors.

It will mean a cultural change in how we deliver services to our communities. It means challenging more, being more ambitious and innovative. Our focus needs to shift towards outcomes rather than inputs and process. We also need to overcome the issues of capacity, culture and complexity identified as obstacles to improved service delivery in the report.

I will be looking very carefully at how to make progress with the review's recommendation for local Partnership Action Contracts as a means of redefining central-local relationships in Wales. …

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