The Power of Collaboration Can Transform Our Services; Social Justice Minister Carl Sargeant Doesn't Believe in Change for Change's Sake, but He Is Convinced Public Sector Reforms Can Save Taxpayers' Money and Deliver Better Public Services in Wales
EARLIER this year I published an essay setting out my vision for public services. My message was simple: the Assembly Government and local authorities must work together for better, more effective services for the citizens of Wales.
To explore how we might do that in more detail, I spent some of the Assembly recess touring Wales, talking to frontline workers, volunteers and citizens to find out what they think of our public services. What is wrong, what is right and how can we do things better? This is more important now than ever. In weeks we will know the outcome of the UK Government spending review. That will not be good news and we will have to turn our attention quickly to setting budgets in the most difficult financial conditions.
Innovation and collaboration will be key to managing over the next few years, balancing growing demand for services, often from the most. The Assembly Government is committed to taking this forward through the efficiency and innovation programme. The programme is a great example of working across the public sector and I am working closely with the Budget and Business Minister to make it a success.
I visited many examples of innovation and good practice, such as a shared legal service across 16 public sector organisations that will save hundreds of thousands of pounds and provide a better service. We need to celebrate those successes and make sure that such best practice is mirrored across Wales.
Very often, authorities seem to want to develop their own solutions to common problems and good practice elsewhere is not used as much as it should be to improve services.
I would go further: in this financial climate local authorities need to consider whether they need to provide some services themselves at all or whether a service would be better delivered in collaboration with their neighbours, or at a regional level or possibly through a single national organisation.
Our public sector workforce has the talent and ambition to meet these challenges of change. They share a willingness to contribute and a drive to improve and I saw abundant evidence of workers putting forward ideas as to how they could make their services better.
For example, the Citizens Advice Bureau is changing lives by helping people to claim benefits they are entitled to; and in some places library services have diversified to provide a broader range of services to citizens.
My challenge to managers is to listen to these ideas and, where they make a difference, put them into practice.
I found that where employees, individually and through their trade unions, engaged effectively, innovative ideas had been developed and made services better .
Efficiency and driving down costs is often associated with fewer staff. That is not always the case and I saw that as well as releasing cash savings, it is possible to employ more people and provide better services. …