Press Releases

HISTORIC PRESS RELEASE : Top experts draw up five point action plan to tackle variations in performance across the public sector [November 1999]

The press release issued by HM Treasury on 24 November 1999.

A five point action plan to tackle variations in performance throughout the public sector and raise standards to the levels of the best was drawn up by 20 top experts at a meeting in Downing Street today, hosted by the Chief Secretary Andrew Smith, and attended by the Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Experts from a wide range of services, including the Cancer Tsar Prof Mike Richards and Sir Peter Davis from the New Deal Task Force, as well as top businessmen Mike Harris from Egg and Michael Wemms from Tescos agreed a five point plan that will mean:

  • targets to raise performance within the public services to the levels of the best will be set in the 2000 Spending Review
  • comparisons within services, as well as with other public services, the private sector and other countries, will be encouraged
  • league tables will be increasingly used to bring home the potential that there is to improve performance, applying best practice on measurement and design
  • techniques for raising performance, such as Beacon Schemes and the Excellence Model, will be promoted
  • the Government will involve staff, especially those at the front line, through local seminars and other means, to communicate its vision and find out what works

Commenting today Andrew Smith said:

” We are stepping up our drive for modernisation in key public services so they provide high quality services for everyone throughout the country. Whilst visible improvements are already coming through from the extra investment we have put in progress is uneven and there are still too many unacceptable variations in performance across the public services. Shining the spotlight on these variations, finding innovative solutions and spreading good practice is intended to raise standards to the levels of the best so that everyone can benefit. We want to see the worst learning from the best. We want to tackle failure and reward success. I am grateful to all those attending this seminar today for their commitment to making this work.”

The Government values the public services and those that work in them. There are already many examples of good practice and the publication of league tables in a number of areas, including Health, Education and the Criminal Justice System is already underway. However the public sector is a large organisation and it is important innovative ideas and solutions are spread throughout the sector so that everyone can learn what works best.

Today’s seminar is an opportunity to look at what can be learned from the action taken so far, see what else can be done in the future and decide what further help the centre can give to identifying good practice and spread it in a way that encourages take up.

Data from a variety of sources (Departments, public bodies, Audit Commission etc) shows some of the considerable variations that do occur:

  • the percentage of drugs prescribed generically varies from below 50% to over 70%. Lincolnshire is worst on 47% whereas Newcastle and
  • N Tyneside managed 72%
  • in further education students at Hackney Community College only achieve 33% of the qualifications they set out to achieve whereas in Newham they achieve 77%
  • in bin collection, 1996-97, the average authority missed 53 bins out of every 100,000 they were supposed to collect whereas Liverpool missed 6,244 and Newcastle 36
  • Dyfed-Powys police force detected 55% of crimes in 1997-98 whereas Gloucestershire detected under 20%. The average was 26%.