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From providers to commissioners

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We’re about to witness a paradigm shift in the delivery of public sector services to drive the cost base down and help the national effort to reduce the country’s debt.

Up until now, public services have - in the main - followed a traditional delivery model, with the state being a provider, rather than commissioner of services. That delivery model has shifted in recent years with public-private partnerships, shared services, Total Place and the like.

That said, most local government services still continue to be provided in the traditional way.

It’s little wonder therefore that many local authority managers and leaders will have to undergo personal transformation to enable them to deliver transformed services for the public at much reduced cost.

Until now senior officers have been more used to operating as service providers rather than service transformers.

The skills gap highlighted in the Improvement & Development Agency’s latest workforce strategy are the types of skills for which we’re currently commissioning development activity in my own organisations, so all of this is real, relevant and timely.

In reality of course, much will hinge on the ability of our existing senior talent to make the switch from the role of provider to transformer - they will need to throw away the old professional tribalism and lily-gilding to embrace different, radical and challenging ways of providing effective public services at much lower cost.

We cannot afford to recruit vast swathes of talent to fulfil this task - so we have to nurture and develop the senior talent we have.

For some, I’ve no doubt they will see the challenges ahead as an opportunity for service and personal development and will be able to take the (clichéd) steep learning curve and deliver transformed services.

Unfortunately, with shades of Darwin’s theory of evolution attached - for those who cannot climb the learning curve and embrace new business and performance management-based ways of working and who see this as a threat, rather than an opportunity - it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Dean Shoesmith, president, Public Sector People Managers’ Association

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