Part III: The Modernisation Agenda
The Government is determined to modernise
the way the Civil Service works and public services are
delivered. The modernisation agenda has a number of strands
The Modernising Government White Paper
was published in March 1999 and is available at
It set out the basis for a long term change programme over
the next ten years. It is based around commitments in five
Forward-looking policy making;
|Responsive public services;
High quality public services;
|Information Age Government; and
Valuing public service.
The heart of the programme is delivering
better results, and more responsive and high quality public
services that match what people need. There is a focus on
users rather than organisational structures; and applying
new technology to make government simpler and more
accessible. It covers not just the Civil Service but the
whole 5 million people working in the public sector, with a
new drive on working together to deliver outcomes. The
Minister for the Cabinet Office takes day to day
responsibility for the programme and also chairs a Cabinet
Committee, Misc 7. The Minister makes regular reports to the
The White Paper was only the start. The
real challenge is in ensuring effective implementation. A
number of follow-up publications mark progress.
The Modernising Government Action Plan
was published in July 1999 and is available at http://www.cabinet-office.gov.uk/moderngov/action/index.htm.
It sets out what the centre of government is doing to
promote and drive forward the commitments in the White
Paper. It is updated regularly on the Internet.
In December 1999, Sir Richard Wilson
presented to the Prime Minister a programme for modernising
the Civil Service based on the work of Groups within the
Civil Service Management Committee. This is being taken
forward with the Prime Ministerís endorsement. The details
are set out in the next section of this guide. Each
department has drawn up its own action plan for delivering
Civil Service modernisation and Modernising Government more
generally. These action plans were put together in March
Other key publications building on the
White Paper are:
|Professional Policy Making for the 21st
Century - a report looking at good practice and the
elements of a model of the policy process.
|Wiring it Up - a PIU report on
joining up government.
|E-government. - an e-Government
strategy, published in April 2000, sets out how public
services will be developed to ensure that all are
available online by 2005.
Modernising Government builds on the
administrative reforms of the UK over the last 15 years. But
there are some crucial differences. There is a change in
focus from a managerial agenda to the userís agenda. The
programme mobilises the whole resources of the public sector
to work together across organisational boundaries to deliver
real results on the ground, not just interim activity. It is
based on a continuing drive for efficiency and
effectiveness, but in a pragmatic rather than dogmatic way.
The programme involves listening to
users, via the Peopleís Panel, and to front-line staff.
There is an emphasis on using IT to improve access to
Government services and to help people fit services to their
lives, rather than vice versa.
The Modernising Government programme is
overseen by a Project Board, chaired by the Cabinet Office
Permanent Secretary, with members drawn from main delivery
departments, local government, the TUC, CBI and academics.
The Project Board identified six priorities for 1999-2000:
|Roll-out of a complete framework for
good policy-making and independent review of its
|Establishment of effective business
planning throughout the public sector, building on the
2000 Spending Review and the ensuing Public Service
|Review of the way that all public
services are delivered, to bring about continuous
improvement in quality and service standards and to
ensure that services are responsive to the needs of the
|Implementation of the development of
a corporate IT strategy for e-government, including
robust targets for the availability, use of and
satisfaction with electronic services;
|The programme to modernise the Civil
|A major programme to modernise
management elsewhere in the public sector.
The first Annual Report on Modernising
Government, citizens first, was published in
Civil Service Reform
In 1999, Sir Richard Wilson, Secretary of
the Cabinet and Head of the Home Civil Service, reported to
the Prime Minister on the changes needed in the management
of the Civil Service to ensure that the Governmentís
programme is delivered effectively. This section sets out
the key themes of the report.
The world in which the Civil Service
operates is changing fast. Information technology, the
media, electronic communications, Europe, modernisation of
the constitution, public demand for higher quality services,
and new Government priorities: all are changing and all
require new ways of working. The Civil Service must
similarly respond to them fast, always aiming for
excellence, innovation and best value.
The members of the Civil Service
Management Board have committed the Civil Service to action
on the basis of six key themes:
i. stronger leadership with a clear sense
ii. better business planning from top to
iii. sharper performance management;
iv. a dramatic improvement in diversity;
v. a Service more open to people and
ideas, which brings on talent; and
vi. a better deal for staff.
Each department will drive through action
in these six areas, including some common measures.
integrating this work with the other change programmes in
hand to deliver the Governmentís objectives through their
Public Service Agreements (PSAs) and the Modernising
Government agenda on excellence in policy making, responsive
and high quality public services and electronic government.
The goal is to create a more open,
diverse and professional Civil Service in which people will
put the publicís interests first; innovate, create and
learn; take personal responsibility, work in partnership
with others; and use new technology to deliver result of
high quality and good value.
The result will be:
|a tougher emphasis on results and
outcomes, identifying the root causes of problems,
particularly for cross-cutting policy areas;
better researched, more innovative
solutions to problems; a wider range of experience,
ideas and professionalism, both from inside and outside
|a better European focus;
more creative and collaborative
working, actively managing risk;
|civil servants taking greater pride
in what they do.
In doing all this, the aim is to build on
the enduring core values of the Civil Service and continue,
in support of successive administrations, to act with
integrity, propriety and political impartiality, and to
select on merit.
Stronger leadership with a clear sense of
Studies of successful organisation show
that strong leadership is essential to achieve change. The
Civil Service needs leaders at all levels, but particularly
at the top, who are actively committed to transforming their
organisations, have a clear sense of direction, purpose and
values, and inspire and motivate those they work with.
Better business planning
The Civil Service needs to ensure that
Ministersí objectives are synchronised with departmentsí
business plans in a coherent process to ensure that there is
a common view of priorities. Joint Ministerial training with
civil servants is also an important element.
Sharper performance management
At the moment Civil Service performance
management systems send mixed messages. There is a
widespread feeling that performance-related pay is not
working as it should. The aim is to introduce performance
management that underpins the change in culture; confronts
poor performance; gives fair rewards for decent
performances; rewards outstanding achievement by individuals
and teams; and creates a climate in which people want to
give of their best and strive for continuous improvement.
A dramatic improvement in diversity
The Civil Service is strongly committed
to bringing a dramatic improvement in its record on
diversity, and to raising diversity awareness. The Civil
Service Management Board attaches great importance to
developing policies to enable staff to achieve a better
balance between their work and private lives.
A more open Civil Service which brings on
Civil Servants need exposure to wider
thinking and new ideas, The Reform programme aims to target
the areas with the greatest need for innovative thinking,
broader horizons and different skills...The Programme is
also about creating a Service which values people and
develops them to their full potential, at all levels, gives
them more challenging opportunities at all stages, and helps
outstanding performers to progress rapidly.
A better deal for staff
Every Civil Service organisation is
committed to offering staff new ways of working which
reflect the vision and values of the Civil Service. The aim
is to create organisations that are open to challenge from
staff if these new ways of working are not delivered, and
that regularly look for improvements in the deal they offer.
The full text of Sir Richard Wilsonís
report to the Prime Minister and other documents on civil
service reform can be seen on the Cabinet Office website: http://www.cabinet-office.gov.uk/index/civilservice.htm
Public Service Agreements
Public Service Agreements (PSAs) are at
the heart of the relationship between the centre of
Government and individual departments. They are the vehicle
for the Governmentís ambition of modern, high-performing
public services combining innovation and excellence.
The Government wants to ensure the
effectiveness of the services the public receive. That is
what makes a difference to the quality of peopleís lives.
The way to do this is through Public Service Agreements (PSAs).
These bring together essential information about departmentsí
PSAs were introduced in the 1998
Comprehensive Spending Review, which established spending
plans for each department for the period 1999-2002. The
first PSAs were published in the December 1998 White Paper Public
Services for the Future: Modernisation, Reform,
Accountability. PSAs for the period up to 2004 were
agreed as part of the 2000 Spending Review, which was
coordinated by the Treasury, and published in a White Paper
in July 2000. Departments are responsible for monitoring
progress against each element in their PSAs and publishing
the results in their annual reports.
The publication of PSAs represents a
fundamental change in the accountability of Government to
Parliament and the public. Too often in the past it has been
hard to identify the effects of increased public
expenditure. Lack of hard information has made it difficult
for the public to make sure services are measuring up to
what they want and need. PSAs show the public what they can
expect to get for their money.
PSAs include commitments by the
responsible Ministers to those who are affected by the
public services. Whilst PSAs are set for each department,
they are agreed by the Government as a whole. There are also
some PSAs for a number of cross-cutting policy areas, where
several departments are involved.
What is in each PSA
Every PSA includes:
aims and objectives; |
performance targets; |
efficiency/value for money targets. |
Aims and objectives
The aim of the 2000 Spending Review was
to determine how best departments' programmes can contribute
to the achievement of the Government's objectives, in
opportunity for everyone to fulfil their
potential through education and employment; |
a fair and inclusive society in which
communities are healthy and secure; and |
higher productivity, sustainable economic
growth and effective co-operation with our European and
international partners. |
Departments have defined their aims and
objectives in this context.
Each PSA sets out the key performance
targets, which will contribute to achieving its aims and
objectives. It also explains how these contribute to the
Governmentís overall strategy. The targets form the heart
of the PSA. They are, therefore, wherever possible SMART ie
specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timed. If
they are not, departments commit themselves, wherever
possible, to make them so. They should be focussed on
outcome rather than output, eg a good health target would be
to lower the death rate from killer diseases, rather than
Value for money
The Governmentís aim of delivering
efficient and modern public services means the public sector
has to make sure effective results are obtained from
available resources. So PSAs include specific value for
money (vfm) targets across the range of public services for
which each department is responsible, with measures of
individual key outputs.
Service Delivery Agreements (SDAs)
These are detailed operational plans for
each individual service for which departments are
responsible, to complement high level performance targets,
ie the "how" which shows how the "what"
will be delivered.
Monitoring PSA targets
Monitoring delivery of PSAs is the vital
next step in the process of making the PSA process work. A
Cabinet Committee chaired by the Chancellor of the Exchequer
(PSX) is in charge. There are four separate strands, which
are coordinated by the Treasuryís GEP team:
setting up and running a database
from which to give quarterly monitoring reports to PSX
on overall progress; |
twice-yearly discussions between PSX
or the Chief Secretary and the relevant Secretary of
State to look at key targets; |
separate monitoring of targets and
issues that appear across Departmental PSAs; |
reporting annually to the public on
How PSAs contribute to joined up
The PSA process is used to make
departments jointly responsible for delivering some key
policy objectives. The 1998 Comprehensive Spending Review
resulted in three cross-cutting PSAs: for the Criminal
Justice System, Action against Illegal Drugs and the Sure
Start programme of childcare. The 2000 Spending Review took
this idea much further, with fifteen cross-cutting studies
of issues that span departmental boundaries.
PSAs also reflect the results of other
forms of interdepartmental working. For example, the
Treasury has established a Public Services Productivity
Panel, which brings together people with high level
experience of the public sector and the outside perspective
of the private sector. Each panel member is assigned to
detailed projects, supported by departmental and Treasury
staff, and in some cases their own company staff.
Departmental plans for better service
delivery - and consequent commitments in their PSAs and SDAs
- also reflect the results of various Cabinet Office
initiatives. Cross-cutting work in the Performance and
Innovation Unit, the Social Exclusion Unit, the Womenís
Unit and the UK Anti-Drugs Co-Ordination Unit can all be
expected to feed through into policy making and resource
planning in the departments affected. The Modernising
Government and Civil Service Reform programmes are also
highly relevant in this context. The Cabinet Office pushes
the policy agenda forwards and departments incorporate the
results in their PSAs and SDAs.
There is more about PSAs on the Treasury Government Secure
Internet (GSI) website: http://www.hm-treasury.gsi.gov.uk
(only accessible by Government departments on the GSI
network) and on their Internet site http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/sr2000/psa
Further detail on parts of No 10 Downing
Street, the Cabinet Office and
the Treasury - including
those usually known by name rather than initials - can be
found in Part II of this guide.