80. An ethos is about culture. As such, it is fundamental
to any organisation, and to how the people who work in it feel
and behave. It can be a priceless asset (or, if negative, a fatal
curse). Although the main focus of public service reform is on
new structural and financial arrangements of various kinds, the
question of ethos must never be lost sight of. Indeed, it should
be the reference point for everything else.
81. Here the public services have a considerable
and intrinsic advantage. When someone describes him or herself
as a 'public servant', it is testimony to the power of an ethos.
People do not describe themselves as 'private servants'. In the
wake of a tragedy or catastrophe, the qualities of service displayed
by public service workers are routinely remarked upon. Yet this
ethos of service is (or should be) only the most striking expression
of a wider public service culture.
82. Yet this is not always so. Sometimes public services,
and those who work in them, fall short of what a public service
ethos should properly consist of. Rhetoric can conceal reality.
That is why we see such an ethos as both intrinsic to the idea
of public services but also as an aspiration that has to be realised
in practice. A public service ethos is only as good as the service
it delivers. It is not enough to celebrate it in the abstract;
it has to be given concrete expression in the way public services
work for the citizens who use them and depend upon them.
83. That is why our emphasis here has been on the
need to nourish and cultivate the ethos of public service. This
becomes even more important as public services are delivered in
new ways by new providers. It is imperative that the public service
ethos, as we have described it here, is concretely built in to
the evolving shape of public service provision. We have suggested
some ways in which this might be done. The public service ethos
should not be seen as an echo from the past, but as an indispensable
ingredient of any public service deserving of the name.