Public Service Reform not yet delivering on Christie Commission aspirations'

The Scottish Parliament Local Government and Regeneration Committee has found that well-intended efforts to pursue public service reform (PSR) are not yet delivering the scale, nature or rate of change that is needed.

The Committee's 9th report for 2013 explores possible reasons for the poor progress, and offers views on how to address apparent barriers. It contends that most barriers can be overcome if all involved recognise the need for consistency of approach based on common understanding of the need for public service reform, requiring improved leadership and communication at all levels. 

It calls for a major effort to achieve the Christie Commission's aspiration of real community engagement and reports varying degrees of quality engagement across Scotland's communities:

"The best examples of PSR arise when local communities and front-line staff are fully engaged in the process of designing and procuring services. We are sceptical of the value of top-down or centrally driven changes to services. Our evidence overwhelmingly shows that the best results involve real community engagement, clear communication, and leadership that is strong, responsive and enabling."

The Committee is remitted to consider and report on a) the financing and delivery of local government and local services, and b) planning, and c) matters relating to regeneration falling within the responsibility of the Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment and cities. This paper reports on the Committee's 16-month inquiry into Public Services Reform (PSR) in Scotland following the publication of the report of the Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services (Christie Commission) two years ago and is the first indicator of the extent to which the recommendations are being implemented.

The evidence considered a range of alternative service delivery options, "and not simply looking at joint ventures between local authorities". For example, one response set out a  helpful list of new models of service delivery, e.g.:

  • Traditional third sector provision (organisations may have to change and merge to deliver scalable services); 
  • Social enterprise and community interest vehicles; 
  • Services organised by user-led mutual organisations; 
  • Employee-led co-operatives; 
  • Strategic delivery partnerships; 
  • Traditional outsourcing models.

It also reported that "There is too much aversion to risk and we expect the “risk averse” culture to be addressed and staff to be empowered to take more risks, which in turn will encourage and breed innovation"

Read the full report here