Q. What savings can be achieved through appropriate public service reform?
With such a large budget deficit to tackle, driving through public service reform to deliver savings has never been more important. The CBI has long argued that significant savings can be made from reforming the way in which public services are accessed and delivered: this can be achieved while service quality is maintained or even improved. Bold action to transform public services would save billions over the coming years.
Q. What are the CBI’s reform priorities?
The Government must quickly implement the core principles outlined in its Open Public Services White Paper, prioritising the wholesale transformation of services and not just tinkering around the edges. This means not only streamlining back office services and support functions, but identifying new ways to reconfigure frontline services to deliver better outcomes at less cost. We believe competition can help drive transformation, and that public services should be opened up to a diversity of providers – from the private, public and third sectors – who have the expertise and capacity to deliver change.
Q. How frustrated were you with the delays to the public service reform white paper?
It was good to finally see the white paper on July 11. Having been promised it in March, we were beginning to wonder whether we would see it at all. The delay was unhelpful as we lacked clarity about the way forward. Now it has been published we are pleased at the positive principles for reform that it outlines, but the test is whether this is followed up with a meaningful implementation plan with timescales for action.
Q. Tony Blair said he wears the scars on his back from trying to reform the public sector. Do you as well?
My position is slightly different from Tony Blair’s! But reforming public services – as every Government has found out – presents significant challenges. The CBI is ready and willing to do our bit, working with members to help ministers drive through change by putting forward practical ideas about how things could be done differently.
CBI members: 240,000 companies
CBI Public Services Strategy Board members: 19
CBI staff: 200