I give my full support to ‘Replace compliance with responsibility’
At the heart of public sector reform has been detailed central specification of how services should be measured and managed, strongly reinforced by inspection.
Such a regime assumes that all problems are alike; that experience and/or intelligence are equivalent to knowledge; and that the centre knows best.
The dysfunctional consequences (worse services at high costs) are well documented, yet public service managers who learn the hard way of the limitations of compliance, and redesign their services to avoid them, are met with suspicion from inspectors.
I should add that this is not the fault of the latter, who are carrying out their jobs to their specifications.
A powerful fear among politicians is that dismantling the regime will lead to a loss of control. This is understandable but wrong. A regime of compliance with bad ideas has effectively put services out of control, as well as impeding improvement and driving up costs. This pledge puts control where it needs to be.
This meets the second preoccupation of central government - identifying lazy, self-interested or incompetent public service managers. Again, compliance makes it easier to evade real responsibility.
Clearly locating responsibility with those who deliver the services makes incompetent or self-serving behaviour visible. More positively, it is a prerequisite for innovation.
We can be certain that the savings will be considerable. Not paying for thousands of specifiers is a good start, but those will be dwarfed by the savings that come from ceasing to comply with bad ideas.
John Seddon, managment consultant, Vanguard