Sunday, July 08, 2007

The red tape cutting challenge: regulatory reform and public services

In the last week of the Blair era the Cabinet Office published Cutting bureaucracy for our public services (pdf available). Hopefully this document will not be lost in the reshuffle and “change”.

It is easy to mock a document talking of Simplification Plans and targets for reducing targets as well as bragging that “the Department for Communities and Local Government has pledged to cut 800 Local Government targets to 200”. (I’ve seen “bureaucracy-busting” in the FE sector - and not much red tape was blown away.) Nevertheless the strategy should be welcomed as it recognises:

So targets and inspections have a critical role to play. But as we move into the next phase of public sector reform, it makes sense to look to see what unnecessary bureaucracy there might be and what more we can do to empower the front-line to respond to the wishes of the public.

This shift was evident in
the late-Blair thinking on public services and reform. The strategy promises:
The commitment to better regulation in the public sector will be led from the very top. Lets hope it still is.

One novel element of the strategy is the commitment that:

everyone [in public services] has the opportunity to suggest ideas for reducing burdens, including those on the public sector through the website.

The strategy commits Whitehall to respond to ideas or suggestions within 90 days, outlining whether they have been taken forward and explaining why a particular decision has been made.

Those on the front line in public services (and their unions and other representative bodies) should take up this challenge.

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