Driving forward on 'people-powered public services'

By Adam Fineberg | 19 June 2014
  • Adam Fineberg

Ed Miliband, speaking at the launch of the IPPR’s Condition of Britain report, re-visited his ‘people-powered public services’ mantra. 

Ed gets it. He’s concerned about the vested powers and interests that’s represented by the monolith that is local public services provision, which, with significant exceptions around localised practice and heroic effort, tends to work to  organisational needs not the people’s needs.

Currently, there is no cogent, developed rationale and argument with a tangible and realistic programme with actions that focuses on the most difficult and now long-considered and universally supported concern, which is the problem with public service provision itself and how this provision affects people and needs to change.  

This, in the context of challenging public sector expenditure constraints which will continue right through the next parliament. The question is, can we shift the terms of the debate?    
We need to inform and shape public policy on public sector reform in advance of the forthcoming general election. 
Perhaps we can counterpose emerging recommendations associated with Labour’s policy review process and raise awareness of what is necessary and achievable amongst those beyond Ed, the politicians, opinion formers, policy makers and the media.  
Miliband’s spring Hugo Young Memorial lecture focused on public sector reforms. The Labour leader spoke about creating a new public service culture based on individuals working together with practitioners. 
I thought that this would begin to trigger a political debate in the run-up to the next general election. The question is, what is required to shift the terms of the debate to ensure that public services are fit for purpose, in the context of the challenges that exist in contemporary Britain?
Perhaps we need a new agenda starting with people, not process or organisation, possibly being the potential for an as yet unrealised “new localism”. 
We have to ensure we successfully meet the greatest needs, with culture and behaviour change being a requirement for public sector reform.
We also need to build resilience, through augmented local community provision and recognize the voluntary sectors’ role (social capital) in public sector reform. 
Valuing frontline workers and workforce engagement and development will be the key to delivering these changes.
Adam Fineberg advises local authorities on tailored models for service provision and corporate structures required to make them fit for purpose. See www.linkedin.com/in/adamfineberg1
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