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CUNNINGHAM LAUNCHES MAJOR PROGRAMME FOR MODERNISING GOVERNMENT

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A vision for transforming the way government works for people - a long term programme for achieving that transforma...
A vision for transforming the way government works for people - a long term programme for achieving that transformation - was announced today in a White Paper by Jack Cunningham, minister for the cabinet office.

The white paper sets out an agenda for modernising policy making, providing responsive and high quality services, the introduction and use of new technology to meet the needs of citizens and business, and harnessing public service staff as the agents of change.

Dr Cunningham said that the white paper represented a clear statement of what government was for:

'Not government for those who work in government, but government for people - people as consumers, people as citizens.

'We will make sure that government services are significantly improved - that they reflect real lives and deliver what people really want. Better provision of better services available from government at all levels is central to the approach of modernising government - in schools, in hospitals, in doctors' surgeries, in police stations, in benefit offices, in jobcentres, in local councils.

The White Paper sets out a long-term programme of reform. However, there are a number of measures the government plans to implement now:

Greater use of new technology

* 100% of dealings with government to be deliverable electronically by the year 2008. The aim is to make it as easy and simple to do most of the main dealings with government as it is to make a telephone call or choose between TV programmes;

* a commitment to ensure that public services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Action to get the main parts of government - central and local, and agencies working more closely together

* making it possible by the end of 2000 for everyone to be able to phone NHS Direct at any time for healthcare advice;

* people using public services will be able to notify different parts of government of details such as change of address, simply and electronically in one transaction.

A new policy on removing unnecessary regulation

* a new drive to remove unnecessary regulation; and a requirement on departments preparing policies which impose new regulatory burdens to submit high quality assessments on their likely impact before decisions are taken, and to check these with the Cabinet Office in advance.

Improving public service

* launch of new 'learning labs' to bring front line staff together to test new ways of working, find new ways of delivering services, and to give them an opportunity to try out new ideas and to provide continuous feedback;

* a more creative approach to financial and other incentives for public service staff, including a commitment to explore the scope for rewards for staff who identify financial savings or service improvements;

* within Whitehall, asking every permanent secretary to ensure that their department has the capacity to drive through delivery of the key government targets, and to take a personal responsibility for ensuring that this happens. Making a determined attempt both to bring people in from outside and to bring able, younger people up the ladder more quickly.

Dr Cunningham said that the Modernising Government programme will be centred on five key commitments:

* policy making will be based on results that matter, not simply reacting to short-term pressures;

* public services will be shaped to meet the needs of citizens, not the convenience of service providers;

* public services will be efficient and high quality. Mediocrity will not be tolerated;

* information age technology will be used to meet the needs of citizens and business;

* public servants will be valued, not denigrated.

Dr Cunningham continued:

'To improve the way we provide services, we need all parts of government to work together better. We need joined-up government. We need integrated government. And we need to make sure that government services are brought forward using the best and most modern techniques, to match the best of the private sector - including one-stop shops, single contacts which link in to a range of government departments and especially electronic information-age services.

'These are key new initiatives. It is important that we act upon them now - and we will.'

Chief secretary to the treasury Alan Milburn added:

'Our public service agreements, our contracts with departments, are very much part of this modernising agenda. Three hundred and fifty policy targets and one hundred and seventy-five efficiency targets that departments will deliver in return for the extra financial investment in services. Since we have set three year spending plans we are able to concentrate on how well money is spent rather than how much. I will be announcing further progress in this area tomorrow. Our job now must be to deliver the improvements in our public services that we all want to see.'

NOTES

1. A summary of the White Paper is attached.

2. Copies of 'Modernising government', Cm 4310, (£9) ISBN

0-10-143102-3 may be purchased from the Stationery Office.

3. The White Paper will also be available on the web at: www.cabinet-office.gov.uk/moderngov/1999/whitepaper

MODERNISING GOVERNMENT WHITE PAPER

Main Points

Modernising government is central to the government's programme of renewal and reform.

It is in line with the government's overall programme of modernisation - modernising for a purpose.

It is a long-term programme of change and improvement.

To ensure that government is both inclusive and integrated, there are three aims in modernising government:

1. to ensure that policy making is more joined up and strategic;

2. to make sure that users of public services, not providers, are the focus, by matching services more closely to people's lives;

3. to deliver public services that are high quality and efficient.

The programme is centred on five key commitments;

Policy making; the government will be forward looking in developing policies to deliver outcomes that matter, not simply reacting to short-term pressures

Specific action

* within Whitehall, every permanent secretary will be asked to ensure that their department has the capacity to drive through delivery of the key government targets and to take a personal responsibility for ensuring this happens;

* next review of public spending plans will target further areas for joint working and budgeting; barriers to parts of government working together will be tackled;

* best practice to be identified and made known;

* training for ministers and officials on the way policy is, and should be made;

* a new policy on removing unnecessary regulation; a requirement on departments preparing policies which impose new regulatory burdens to submit high quality assessments on the likely impact before decisions are taken, and to check them with the cabinet office.

Responsive public services; the government will deliver public services to meet the needs of citizens, not the convenience of service providers

Specific action

*£230m to be invested over the next three years to get two or more public bodies working together to deliver services more innovatively and efficiently and make them easier to use.

* big push on obstacles to joined up working, through local partnerships, one-stop shops and other means:

Central and local government to work together to assess how different local services can be located in one centre - so that local people go to one place for advice and help rather than three or four.

* by the end of 2000 everyone will be able to phone NHS Direct at any time for healthcare advice;

* people using public services will be able to notify different parts of government of details such as change of address simply and electronically in one transaction;

* major initiative to align boundaries of public bodies; more than 100 different sets of regional boundaries in England alone complicates administration, reduces efficiency and frustrates joined-up government;

* big push to involve and meet the needs of different groups in society:

* major programme of listening to, consulting and involving;

* the people's panel, the home secretary's Race Relations Forum, the Listening to Women, and the Listening to Older People exercises.

Quality public services; we will deliver efficient, high quality public services and will not tolerate mediocrity

Specific action

* all central and local government services and activities will be reviewed over the next five years to identify the best supplier in each case;

* new targets will be set for all public bodies, focusing on real improvements in quality and effectiveness;

* performance to be monitored closely so that the right balance is struck between intervening where services are failing and giving successful organisations the freedom to manage.

Information age government; we will use new technology to meet the needs of citizens and business, and not trail behind technological developments

Specific action

* new target set of 100% of basic dealings with government to be deliverable electronically by the year 2008;

* a commitment to ensure that public services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, where there is a demand;

* legislation to be introduced so that electronic signatures have the same force in law as paper signatures;

* major initiative with banks and others to develop smartcards, so that a range of services can be made available on one card;

* project to make a range of government services and information available through one, easy to use government gateway (or portal) A prototype to be launched this year;

* by March 2001, 90% of low value purchases by central government should be carried out electronically;

* government to look at promoting use of personal accounts, managed by banks and other institutions, to as wide a section of society as possible.

Public service; we will value public service, not denigrate it

Specific action

* action to modernise the civil service. Taking a more creative approach to financial and other incentives for public service staff, including a commitment to explore the scope for financial reward for staff who identify financial savings or service improvements;

* new drive to improve equality; new targets set for 2004/5 -

* 35% of senior civil service will be women (in 1998 - 17.8%)

* 25% of top 600 posts will be filled by women (in 1998 - 12.7%)

* 3.2% of senior civil service will be from ethnic minorities (in

1998 - 1.6%)

* an equivalent target for the senior civil service for people with disabilities will be set up later in the year

* launch of new 'learning labs' - bringing front line staff together to test new ways of working, new ways of delivering services and to give them an opportunity to try out new ideas and take risks;

* a public sector forum to be established to bring together and develop key players across the public sector.

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