Service improvements Where

20 Sep 01
The government has failed to convince the public that it has delivered improvements in public services, even though public sector managers believe progress has been made.

21 September 2001

But Cabinet Office Minister Lord Macdonald said the government refused to be downbeat and was encouraged by the optimism of managers.

Macdonald was speaking after the launch of a survey commissioned by the Local Government Association, which found that while 85% of providers claim services have got better, only 20% of the public believe improvements have been made.

At the September 17 conference, `A bright future for public services?, Macdonald said: `I share the optimism of public service managers. They have a comprehensive view of what is going on within their own organisations, week in and week out.

`It is perhaps inevitable that the users of those services, who are unlikely to have that level and consistency of contact, will be slower to recognise the improvements. Therefore we have to work together to highlight the improvements that undoubtedly are being made.'

But the government's determination to transform the public sector has failed to register significantly in the public's mind.

According to the LGA, while 80% of managers believe there will be continuous improvement in services over the next four years, only one in three members of the public agrees.

LGA chairman Sir Jeremy Beecham said the gulf in perceptions between public sector managers and the people they serve `is a real cause for concern'.

What will worry government advisers is the complete failure to convince business leaders that public standards are being overhauled. The LGA survey found 61% of business leaders believed services were likely to worsen over the next few years.

In his speech to the conference Macdonald tried to assuage public sector worries about the role of the private sector. The government had a key test: `what works best', he said. `Sometimes the voluntary or private sector will have a role. Sometimes they won't. Nobody is talking about privatising the NHS or schools. Nobody has said the private sector is a panacea to sort out our public services.'

Fleshing out details on the newly created Delivery Unit in Downing Street, Macdonald said: `We will try to avoid bureaucratic process or trying to micro-manage.

`We are concerned about outcomes and not just better processes. We know that one size won't fit all.'


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