Charles Clarke, promoted to the Cabinet as Labour Party chairman last month, said managers found it difficult to understand the 'user perspective' on public services because they were drawn from 'a narrow section of society'.
This is aggravated when councillors, who do meet a cross-section of society through their surgeries, lack the verbal skills to get the message across.
'Councillors are sometimes not particularly articulate and that leads to a clash of cultures with the professionals. Making that dialogue work is a key message.'
He was speaking at the launch of an Audit Commission report called Change here, on leading change in public services. Mr Clarke said many of the commission's points were difficult to address in the public sector.
These include the ability to install enthusiasts for change in key posts where an incumbent could serve efficiently for 20 years. He said it was more difficult for public services to remove a senior person.
Mr Clarke acknowledged the government had not handled the debate over private sector involvement in the public services very well. But he said the government would press ahead.
Meanwhile Audit Commission controller Sir Andrew Foster has admitted the inspection system is flawed, but says this should not be allowed to undermine the case for 'external challenge'.
- Change here, is available on 0800 502030