Government needs to do more than take budgets away

Can we transform the system of public service delivery by budget cutting alone?

Key points:

  • Service reform is needed; salami slicing individual budgets won’t work and a whole system approach is needed
  • The government is forcing systemic change with its budget constraints but also needs to address other policy issues to bring about its desired outcomes
  • The government should pump prime the change and fund the new ways of working before removing budgets
  • The benefits of collaboration and more integrated partner working outweigh the costs by many multiples, and that grows significantly where users are equipped for mobile delivery

Service Reform and Systemic Change

We have probably all heard and seen the news about increasing austerity cuts and the fear of important UK government agencies losing 40% of their budgets. The knock on impact to suppliers and partners is also going to be significant and it will undoubtedly affect the wider delivery system. One senior government worker I know mentioned that “all hope has gone and it’s now just about survival”…….a sad state of affairs.

Without transformational service reform to drive more efficient and effective collaboration amongst agencies, the risk of a major failure is growing daily from a salami slicing approach.  So personal views to one side, I can see why the government is taking this more drastic action, beyond balancing the books in future years.  The significance of the cuts should drive collaboration, putting politics and local agency silo systems to one side for a greater common purpose; delivering the desired community outcomes at much lower cost (and risk).  There is nothing like a crisis to bring partners together and focus on the real goal. I talk about that in my book following experiences at Reuters during 9/11.

However, in order to bring about that change it needs to do more than take the money away.  People tell me it needs to address issues in the following areas and I agree:

  • Enabling structural change in agencies to enable mergers, sharing of key assets and avoidance of bureaucracy in doing so
  • Address procurement and related policies that stifle innovation and delay change
  • Encourage income generation and more competition with private sector in core competence delivery areas
  • Change fiscal policies to allow multi year investment management
  • Go beyond statutory duties to cooperate to find incentives and penalties that drive a change in habits
  • Go beyond a Data Protection Act to have a Data Sharing Act

Rule breakers or change the rules?

With my background in strategy, partnering and change, I look above the system and can see wonderful opportunities for better outcomes at much lower cost.

However without changing the wider policies we will be reliant on the goodwill and behaviour of pioneering leaders to do the right thing, rather than do what is right.  That cant be right, so lets change more of the rules rather than just have a few innovators and rule breakers who are making a difference.  The benefits of collaboration and new ways of working exceed the current model by many multiples so lets hope the government changes a few more rules as soon as possible.

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