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LOCAL GOVERNMENT PUTS CITIZENS FIRST

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Trailblazing local government initiatives that have improved public ...
Trailblazing local government initiatives that have improved public

services were praised in a new government report, Citizens First.

Citizens First, the Modernising Government annual report produced by

the cabinet office, highlights best practice across public services.

Out of over 45 examples, the report singles out three pioneering

projects that have improved public services and made them more

accessible.

One of the most enterprising local government projects is East Riding

of Yorkshire Council's videolink kiosks. At the touch of a button

people can be patched through to council departments, the police,

local law centres, the Benefits Agency and NHS Direct. Situated in 11

customer service centres, over a million people have accessed

information through these video kiosks since 1997.

Bristol City Council has developed a new videophone service to make

information about education and employment more accessible for deaf

people. Deaf people can use video phones to dial up and communicate

in sign language with Bristol's central library. In a bid to expand

its network and services to deaf people, the council has also linked

up with the University of the West of England to provide a remote

interpreter for prospective students.

Oldham MBC has made finding council housing quick and easy by

launching Oldham Instant Homes. In April, the council set up an

estate agent-style shop in the town centre where people can register,

view a property and sign up on the same day.

Cabinet office minister Ian McCartney said:

'These are prime examples of trailblazing schemes to improve our

public services. It shows that the modernising agenda cuts across all

aspects of public life and works on the ground at national and local

level.

'Modernising Government is making government more accessible; we are

exploring ways of matching government services to peoples' lives. We

are making good progress, but there is a lot more work to do.'

Welcoming the 'impressive' examples in the report, the prime minister

says in a foreword:

'I am passionate about public service. A central task of this

government is to make the argument for public services, to move

beyond the false choice between big and small government to a

constructive debate about how we make government as effective as

possible.

'Investment is the first step. That's why in July, the chancellor of

the exchequer announced the biggest investment in public services of

modern times. This is a huge opportunity for everyone who works in

public services.

'But with that opportunity comes a real responsibility - a

responsibility to use those resources effectively, efficiently and

imaginatively.

'That is why our investment is tied to clear targets. By being

specific about what outcomes we want but flexible about how they

should be achieved, we can free up public services to innovate. In

particular we can give power to those at the front line who know best

how to improve servicesand meet the needs of their users.'

For a comprehensive report on progress since publication of the

modernising government white paper, visit our website.

NOTES

1. Citizens first was launched today in response to last year's

Modernising Government white paper. It covered the main aspects of

public sector work - how policy is made, the delivery of services,

making the best use of new technologies and managing staff in a

way that makes them feel valued so they can give their best.

2. The vision of modernisation applies to all parts of the public

sector.

3. There were five key commitments in the white paper:

* policy-making will be based on results that matter, rather than

short-term pressures

* public services will be shaped to meet the demands 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

4. Copies of the annual report are available from Paul Kitchen on

020 7276 1491.

5. Citizens first is an update on what has been achieved since

March 1999.

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