Select Committee on Public Administration Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 197 - 199)




  197. We are very pleased to have you as representatives of the CBI here this morning to help us with our inquiry. Would any or all of you like to say anything by way of introduction?

  (Mr Jones) I am Digby Jones, I am Director-General of the CBI. Thank you for inviting me. I am going to address you for a couple of minutes in a moment, but may I just introduce my two colleagues?
  (Mr Cox) I am Charles Cox. I chair the CBI's Modernising Government Committee. In business life I am the Managing Director of the Work and Pensions business for EDS.
  (Ms McIntyre) I am Amanda McIntyre and I am Head of Modernising Government at CBI.
  (Mr Jones) We at the CBI welcome this inquiry. We think it provides an important chance to improve our collective understanding of the fundamental challenge of improving public services and the role of the private sector in this. The tax paying public—which obviously includes business—expects delivery more than ever. Delivery of better value public services will be the biggest contributor to successful socially inclusive wealth creation. The challenge to improve public services is huge. The public's view of progress to date is not good. Whilst 100 per cent of local councils and 90 per cent of health authorities surveyed by the Local Government Association think services will improve if present trends continue, only 35 per cent of the public and 31 per cent of businesses would agree with that. The Government is starting to get a better understanding of how to deliver these improvements. Management techniques are improving. Procurement competence has some way to go but it is getting better. There is recognition of the need for leadership, for using different management styles in different situations, not a one-size-fits-all, for using performance management and not micro-management and making a reality of the word "partnership". But the public sector has genuine capacity constraints. Central initiatives to drive improvements in public services must be practical, strengthening both commitment and skills in leading and managing change across the public sector. This change is about, more than anything else, culture. There are very many good, committed, hard-working, caring people employed in the public sector who are held back from delivering to their maximum potential by a system which for years has put the deliverer's interests and issues and those of politics above those of the tax-paying consumer. The private sector has to put the consumer first, albeit for motives associated with shareholder and profits, but with PPP the end result can be a fusion of the best of both interests. The private sector has a vital role to play. This is certainly not because of any false "private good, public bad" rationale, but because by having a range of service providers you get different sources of ideas and a healthy competitive pressure on everyone to do better. We believe the key requirement is for a public service ethos—not a public sector one. The key is to make sure that the public and private sectors work together in the right way in a partnership where their motivations are aligned towards delivery of an agreed outcome. The public and private sectors did not always work in this way before and the damage to service quality, the damage to staff morale was very serious. But both sectors are now increasingly working in partnership and it is making a difference. PPPs are improving the quality of public services, they are delivering better value for taxpayers' money. But there is more to do. We must build on the progress to date to improve procurement, to improve contractual relations. The public sector must be a challenging, partnering client, to drive the best results out of the best of the private sector. Despite what emotive rhetoric for voter consumption might say, this is not about "privatisation". Public services are not being privatised by PPP. This is about using private sector expertise and resources to deliver public services which are a credit to the United Kingdom, a nation which has put up with and paid for poorly managed public services for far too long.

  198. Thank you very much for that and thank you for your most helpful memorandum which you let us have too. I sense that, rather like the last session, we are going to have a frank-speaking session, which is good.
  (Mr Jones) I would have thought so.

  199. Let me start then. You said some interesting things there. You said that the private sector has to put the consumer first.
  (Mr Jones) Yes.

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