Magazine article Public Finance

Seeking Sustainability

Magazine article Public Finance

Seeking Sustainability

Article excerpt

Aligning public services to forge a sustainable legacy is the theme of this year's UK CIPFA Conference and I'd like to explore this from a Scottish perspective.

I'd first like to say how pleased I was to recently receive honorary CIPFA membership. It's been a pleasure working with members over the past eight years and our collaborative relationship will be instrumental in developing renewed arrangements for Scotland's public finances.

Effective partnership working is, I believe, the basis of high quality public services and in Scotland all public services are aligned to a single performance framework - Scotland Performs. We are currently working with our partners to drive forward a comprehensive programme of reform to protect and improve public services. This process has been all the more challenging due to the significant and sustained pressure on public finances that has resulted from the continued programme of austerity being pursued by Westminster.

The austerity programme has failed by any measure. Not only has it delayed the economic recovery, it has also been ineffective in terms of reducing the deficit. The Scottish Government believes in a different approach. Our vision is for a prosperous economy where the benefits of growth are shared equally. That is why we have proposed a sustainable alternative to austerity, which would see moderate spending increases in each of the next five years.

Our programme for government - One Scotland - is founded on three, mutually reinforcing, priorities: inclusive growth, creating a fair and equal society, and protecting and reforming public services; all delivered through a more engaging and participatory approach. Strong public services are the bedrock of a fair and prosperous society and we will continue to invest in and prioritise these as far as we are able to using the powers available to us.

There is a consensus in Scotland that the report of Campbell Christie's Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services provided the right diagnosis for improving outcomes for communities across Scotland. These findings provided additional impetus to a reform journey that had already begun, informing a strategic approach to public service transformation built around the principles of performance; partnership; people and prevention. Since the publication of Christie, the importance of both place and participation have also become more widely recognised as being key in the design of any public service reform.

We are committed to decisions being taken closest to where they have their effect. Scotland's 32 community planning partnerships provide a strong understanding of place, bringing public, private and third sector partners together with communities and each other to design services that are responsive to distinctive local priorities.

I want to see a greater shift in where power and influence lies, so that people are able to take an active role in shaping the society they live in. The wholly unprecedented levels of civic participation witnessed during the referendum debate on Scottish independence was an inspiration and our Community Empowerment Bill will support communities to achieve their own goals and aspirations - whether that's by taking control of land or buildings or having a greater say in how local services are run.

A great example of public services working with a local community and each other to improve outcomes and tackle inequalities is found in Gallatown. This small community in Kirkcaldy is one of the most deprived in Scotland and traditionally was reluctant to engage with public agencies. …

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