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HM Government: Policy Review

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Citizens Have Their Say

Whilst the main focus of the Policy Review has been on engaging the policy community, the nature of the questions on public services are so integral to the daily experiences and life chances of individuals that these questions need to be considered and debated by the public more directly. Technology, higher living standards and our daily experiences as consumers in the high street, supermarket and on the internet mean we increasingly view ourselves as ‘customers’ of public services with the right to expect and demand high standards.

A public engagement strand of the Policy Review was therefore established, giving a representative group of the population the opportunity to engage in discussing key issues emerging from the Public Services strand.

The strand was led by leading reserch company Ipsos MORI, who recruited a representative sample of the general population to be involved in a ground–breaking deliberative consultation exercise.

Five regional Citizens Forums were held in February 2007, feeding into a Citizens Summit in March.

Citizen Forum dates:

London, Tuesday 13th February;
Bristol, Thursday 15th February;
Leeds, Tuesday 20th February;
Manchester, Wednesday 21st February;
Birmingham, Thursday 22nd February.

Membership of the forums

Ipsos MORI selected a group of over 100 people from all walks of life to be representative of the population, based on good practice in market research, achieving a geographical and demographic spread.

Recruitment used experienced face to face recruiters who recruited 25 people in each of the five selected areas in England. The recruitment was quota based in order to achieve a good cross–section of the general public. The quotas included demographic questions (on age, gender, socio–economic group, etc) and also attitudinal questions (such as views of whether public services are likely to get better or worse in the next six months) to ensure we got people with a wide range of views. Attitudinal quotas were set using data from the Ipsos MORI weekly omnibus to ensure they were representative of current views.

The Citizens Forums and Summit were designed to provide robust social research outcomes, and were therefore be restricted to the selected participants. However, members of the public have had the opportunity to make contributions through a number of other routes: see the feedback section.

The Agenda for the Forums

Three key questions formed the basis for the public engagement strand:

  1. How can public services improve customer care?
    • How would people react to greater local variation in public services to reflect local priorities?
    • Would people change their behaviour if it enabled improved customer service?
    • What degree of personalisation do people want from public services – at what cost?
  2. Should people be encouraged to improve their own lives and their communities'
    1. What specific areas of our social culture/behaviours are citizens most keen to address?
    2. What level of state intervention are people willing to accept in order to achieve shared objectives, if any? And what styles of intervention will work best?
    3. Where is the line between legitimate state intervention and becoming a ‘nanny state’?
  3. Do we need to have clearer rights and responsibilities for people and Government?
    • How would people react to a more explicit expression of what they can expect from the state, and in return, what they accept responsibility for?
    • Which policy areas are people most open to accepting clear allocation of responsibility?
    • What areas should automatically be a state responsibility – Defence? And where is there joint responsibility – Health?

To help bring the challenges facing the future of public services to life, members of the Citizens Forums were provided with material presenting a range of statements about the future provision of services. Their views on these statements were reflected in the agenda for the Citizens Summit.

To inform the public engagement strand, the Prime Minister hosted a seminar on 15 January at which he introduced research by Ipsos MORI [PDF, 21 pages, 92KB] outlining current views on public services and how they want to interact with government and services in the future. Ministers discussed with experts from the business, public and voluntary sectors the key issues to be debated by the Citizens Forums, informed by the research. Further detailed research has also been published by Ipsos MORI [External website]

Outcomes of the Forums

The deliberations of the five regional Citizens Forums were fed into the final Citizens Summit on 3 March. 53 of the participants at the Forums were invited back to the Summit at 10 Downing Street. They were selected by Ipsos MORI to achieve the best mix of different types of people based on attitudes and demographics.

The emerging themes from the Forums were published prior to the Summit:

Citizens Summit

53 members of the public visited Downing Street on 3rd March to continue their contribution to the renewal of public services in a unique Citizenís Suummit. The event represented the first time that citizens had had the opportunity to deliberate on the broad issues about the future of public services at Downing Street.

Speaking in advance of the event, the Prime Minister said:

“Politicians are in the listening business because they end up standing for election, but when they are in government they are also in the deciding business, and that is when life gets more difficult.

“And I think that we do politics a power of good in a way if you are able to have a far more profound dialogue and conversation with people ...”

The event was attended by a number of Cabinet Ministers, as observers rather than participants, including Hazel Blears, Minister without Portfolio, Hilary Armstrong, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the cabinet Office, and Stephen Tims, Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Summit Outcomes

The output from the Summit was considered by the Cabinet on 8 March as part of the overall Policy Review process to inform the future direction of Government policy.

The views of participants also played a key role in informing the first publication resulting from the Policy Review process, Building on progress: Public Services report [PDF 1,673KB, 87 pages] was published on 20 March.

The full report by Ipsos MORI covering the outcomes of the Summit and the wider public engagement process has now been published, supported by a report outlining the technical background to the research programme.

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