Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Cabinet Office, Centre for Management and Policy Studies (CMPS)

  1.  This Memorandum is to update the Committee on developments that have taken place since the fieldwork for the NAO report was carried out.

  2.  The NAO Report: Modern Policy-Making: Ensuring Policies Deliver Value for Money, was launched at the same time as a Cabinet Office Report—Better Policy-Making.

  3.  The two Reports are complementary, while covering different aspects of the policy process. Cabinet Office and NAO liaised to ensure that the burden on departments of responding to two surveys on similar topics was kept to a minimum. Modern Policy-Making focuses on good practice in handling issues of risk and value for money in the policy process. Better Policy-Making results from a broader survey of the top 600 departmental civil servants. It focuses on how civil servants are introducing nine features of modern policy making identified in earlier reports, provides 40 good practice examples and identifies barriers and enablers of change. The Cabinet Office Report makes it clear that many departments, both large and small, have already successfully modernised policy-making across a wide range of areas. It also acts as a guide to good practice, with named contacts for each case study.

  4.  An event on 1 November 2001 to launch Better Policy-Making was attended by 300 senior civil servants from 18 government departments. Michael Whitehouse of the NAO spoke on risk and value for money in the policy process. Wendy Thomson, Head of the Office of Public Services Reform, and Michael Barber, Head of the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit, also spoke at the event.

  5.  Following the election in June 2001 (and since the fieldwork for both Modern Policy-Making and Better Policy-Making was completed) the Prime Minister has set out clearly his priorities for public service reform. The main aim is ensuring a strong consumer focus. The Office of Public Services Reform and the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit have been established at the centre of government to take the reform agenda forward.

  6.  The Prime Minister's Delivery Unit (PMDU) continues to work with departments on the most challenging objectives identified in the four priority areas of Health, Education, Crime Reduction and Asylum and Transport. Michael Barber also reports regularly on progress to the Prime Minister.

  7.  The role of the Office of Public Services Reform (OPSR) is to advise the Prime Minister on how the Government's commitment to radical reform of the public services, including the civil service, can be taken forward. It covers the full range of public services, both central and local government. OPSR will lead a Departmental Change Programme (DCP), developed in partnership with two or three volunteer pilot departments, which will harness expert advice and support in creating an overall framework for change, tailored to departmental priorities and set against an agreed `high performance' standard to which departments should aspire. A number of departments have come forward to participate in the programme and the first pilot will begin in February 2002 with DEFRA, with the programme being rolled out across departments over the next two to three years. Also, working closely with the Office of Government Commerce, OPSR is currently running a project on Improving Project and Programme Delivery (IPPD) to help Departments improve their capacity to deliver. The focus will be on people and skills, project/programme scrutiny, project/programme delivery and context. Project and programme management approaches will be piloted across a variety of `live' areas, complementing the work of the PMDU. CMPS is working with OPSR to identify current good practice in project management of the policy delivery interface and to run action research as part of the live pilots.

  8.  This new agenda is wide-ranging and ambitious, and has the potential to make the design and delivery of government policy much more effective. Although the key focus is on successful policy outcomes through improved delivery, better policy making and design still remains vital and the Cabinet Office work on spreading good practice in policy-making is a crucial element of this. CMPS is fully engaged with PMDU, OPSR and other central units to ensure that the good practice lessons which emerge are fully utilised through wider training and development activities.

  9.  We would welcome the views of Members of the Public Accounts Committee on our approach at this early stage.

Cabinet Office

Centre for Management and Policy Studies

January 2002


previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 31 July 2002