Smiths new targets turn the spotlight on service delivery

18 Nov 99
The chief secretary to the Treasury, Andrew Smith, is to create a series of Service Delivery Agreements spanning the whole of government, he reveals in this week's Public Finance .

19 November 1999

The new SDAs will comprise several hundred targets assessing the managerial effectiveness of the government machine, including improvements in racial diversity among Whitehall civil servants. They will be key in the hard-fought negotiations soon to get under way between spending ministries and the Treasury on the next three-year spending plans.

The creation of SDAs follows a decision to break up the current matrix of Public Service Agreements with 500-plus separate objectives.

In future, the streamlined PSAs, including schools' literacy and numeracy targets, will focus on performance targets of direct interest to the public. These are seen as part of the government's main strategic agenda.

Both SDAs and PSAs will be imposed on spending departments and local government and monitored by the Treasury.

'The change is part of the evolution of the PSAs. The "whats" remain as PSAs, the "hows" move across to become SDAs,' commented a source.

The chief secretary writes (page 32) that the PSA approach will be at the heart of the 2001/2004 spending plans. He declares: 'Building on experience with PSAs to date, we plan to set fewer, more outcome-focused targets where we have the information to do so.

'Outcomes capture what we want to achieve, for example, better health, reduced crime, higher standards of education, rather than the organisations' processes and inputs which deliver them.'

SDAs, by contrast, 'will set out for each department their strategy for the management of the public sector'.

Some updating has been forced on the Treasury to incorporate the government's new objective set out in the Modernising Government white paper on the recruitment of women and ethnic minorities.

To further sharpen the focus, several small government agencies, including the Government Actuary's Department and the Office for National Statistics, will be removed from the PSA process. However, the SDAs will apply to them.


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