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  Modernising Government - a brief guide  

The Modernising Government White Paper (published in March 1999) set out key policies and principles underpinning the Government's long-term programme of reform to modernise public service, linking with the conclusions of the Comprehensive Spending Review and the introduction of Public Service Agreements. The programme involves everyone working in public services and everyone who uses them.

It sets out the Government's five commitments which provide the framework for the programme:

  • We will be forward looking in developing new policies to deliver outcomes that matter, not simply reacting to short-term pressures
  • We will deliver public services to meet the needs of citizens, not the convenience of service providers
  • We will deliver efficient, high quality public services and will not tolerate mediocrity
  • We will use new technology to meet the needs of citizens and business and not trail behind technological developments
  • We will value public service, not denigrate it.

There are a number of key strategic drivers which are crucial to the success of the programme and which are priorities for the centre to focus on. These include:

Policy making

  • Development of a complete framework for excellence in policy making, including guidelines on best practice, new databases to support evidence-based policy making and appropriate training and development.
  • Full peer review of Departments' policy making.

Responsive public services

  • Services available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week where there is a demand.
  • Routine monitoring of customers' view on public services, with mechanisms to adjust service provision where necessary.

Quality public services

  • Public Service Agreements setting targets right across the public services for modernisation and reform.
  • Review of all central and local government services under Better Quality Services and Best Value initiatives.

Information age government

  • Development of a corporate IT strategy for Government.

Valuing public service

  • A programme to modernise the civil service, concentrating on our vision for the 21st century and common principles, and looking at what changes to our approach to recruitment and development processes, interchange with other sectors, performance management, and valuing diversity are needed to support that vision.

A Project Board oversees the Modernising Government programme, focusing particularly on the strategic drivers for making it happen and driving forward change in these. It is important that Modernising Government is an inclusive programme. The Project Board Members are from various backgrounds.

Key action points

  • Performance and Innovation Unit on reform of current accountability arrangements and incentive systems to help government departments work together to provide seamless services for their customers.
  • A modernising Government competition sponsored by TNT, which rewards public sector bodies who work in partnership to deliver seamless services to their customers.
  • Working with local government to establish pilot "infoshops" to provide better and faster advice to members of the public and businesses about planning, health and safety and public health regulations.
  • A report by the Quality Schemes Task Force on encouraging the use of quality schemes and establishing closer co-operation between the schemes.
  • A report on progress against Public Service Agreement targets in Departmental report.
  • All departments asked to review all of their services and functions to identify the best supplier to improve quality and value for money across government.
  • Agencies and NDPBs to deliver high quality public services through new guidance on how they should be reviewed, with emphasis on their performance, with views of their customers, and the scope of working with others in partnership.
  • A single framework for all Government sites on the web to ensure that they provide a single high level of accessibility and service to members of the public.
  • Front-line staff to try out innovative ideas through learning labs aimed at improving service delivery.
  • Modernising the civil service. We are working with the wider public sector, including local government, the armed forces, the health service, education to ensure that the principles set out in the Modernising Government White Paper became an integral part of the way the public sector is managed.

A dialogue on Modernising Government

We want your comments. When we published the White Paper we said that we wanted a dialogue on how we should achieve the vision that we had set out. We invited comments in writing and we set up an e-mail address for responses.

Suggestions so far include:

  • greater flexibility in the way financial and budgeting systems work at local level. The work being done to see whether budgets might be jointly run by organisations was welcomed;
  • giving front-line staff more freedom to tackle people's problems by removing unnecessary red tape within the public service as well as in business;
  • involving members of the public to a greater extent when developing policies and services;
  • increasing mobility across the public sector as a way of bridging cultural divides;
  • prioritising the tasks in the White Paper to ensure that that we succeed in our objectives;
  • the importance of stronger co-ordination from the centre on key corporate issues such as the development of key electronic service delivery; and
  • taking forward the Information Age vision without excluding any groups in society, for example people with disabilities.
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