Public Services White Paper launched
The government has launched its white paper on the reform of public services. After much delay the Cabinet Office has published the Open Public Services white paper which will be followed over the summer by 'a wide-ranging discussion with individuals, communities, public sector staff, providers and others with an interest in how public services are delivered' on a dedicated website.
The paper's plans are based on 5 principles, choice, decentralisation, diversity, fairness and accountability. It sets out the direction government wishes commissioning of most public services to go in and could redefine the nature of the local public sector.
Katy Wing, NAVCA's Director of Improving Local Services, said
"The Open Public Service White Paper has the potential to harness the power of local charities and voluntary organisations. But this won't happen unless the Government ensures an intelligent approach to commissioning by placing social value at the heart of public services.
"We are pleased to see the unequivocal recognition in the white paper that action is needed to remove barriers for small, local organisations. NAVCA's commissioning and procurement team knows the difficulties local charities face and we will offer the Government constructive proposals to make commissioning work better for smaller charities.
"Intelligent commissioning benefits local citizens and communities - those that pay for and use the services. It allows proper recognition of the wider social value local voluntary organisations bring to service delivery, such as volunteering and the close involvement of local people in shaping services."
UPDATE 18 July
The Competition Strategy for Offender Services has been published. As expected it mirrors the Open Public Services white paper in that competition will be the default option for all services. A schedule of services to be tendered will be published annually, on a rolling programme. Contracts for prisons are to be further opened to competition, including 9 prison tenders this year. The proposals include using competition to deliver core probation services and encouraging public sector spin outs.
While the strategy makes passing reference to reducing the barriers to voluntary and community sector and SME involvement in the market, it appears that this will be done through a DWP type prime provider model. It also strongly emphasises Payment by Results models, which are likely to exclude many small voluntary organisations. In addition, it appears that the different aims of punishment and rehabilitation may be amalgamated in contracts, which could cause a strong moral dilemma for many voluntary sector providers.
The strategy appears to assume that competition in and of itself will automatically lead to better outcomes at reduced cost, as opposed to proposing an intelligent commissioning approach, using different funding routes to achieve the optimum outcomes.
Detailed competition proposals for non-custodial services will be announced in the autumn.