27 February 2004
Local government needs to take on board lessons from the retail sector if it is to re-engage with the population it serves, according to the prime minister's senior adviser on public service reform.
Addressing an Innovation Forum event on public service integration on February 19, Wendy Thomson, head of the Office of Public Services Reform, said local government faced a big strategic problem in how it was regarded as a brand.
She said that although the quality of service was improving overall, public satisfaction levels were falling. Confidence in council services was low and people whose experience of council services was good tended to ascribe this to luck.
Thomson urged local authorities to develop a marketing strategy and ensure they had a clear understanding of their customers' wants and needs so that services could be redesigned around them. She added that lessons could be learned from major retailers. 'Customer satisfaction data is key data the board is always considering,' she said.
Local government minister Nick Raynsford told the event that integrated services can and were being delivered but more still needed to be done to stop people being 'shunted from pillar to post'. He urged councils to learn from each other and make the most of best practice sharing.
Raynsford added that a genuine framework was in place for devolving freedom and encouraging innovation, but that local authorities and their partner agencies needed to make the most of the opportunities the government had presented them with.