My mission statement

The times we are working in now need a great deal of accelerated change and there must be no negotiating that down. So my mission statement for this part of my consultancy career is to be clear that there needs to be and will be a lot of change from the work that I do with individuals and organisations and if organisations don’t want that, then it is probably best to go somewhere else.

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To avoid accusations of dithering….

Filed Under (Health Policy, Public service reform, White Paper) by Paul on 11-07-2011

Today sees the publication of the Government’s Open Public Services White Paper. First discussed last autumn it was considered possible it might appear by Christmas 2010, and then spring 2011, but has finally made it on July 11 2011.

Back in February the Prime Minister outlined his aims in the Telegraph

“Instead of having to justify why it makes sense to introduce competition in some public services… The State will now have to justify why it should ever operate as a monopoly.”

But that was before the Prime Minister became frightened of the state monopoly provided by the NHS and started to row backwards very quickly.

The Times explained on Friday,

“…but the paper, key to Mr Cameron’s Big Society agenda, has been substantially diluted to prevent and outcry from professionals and public sector unions”

As I suggested last Monday, once a Government gets used to going backwards it begins to consider it a good day when it does so elegantly. So the publication of tomorrow’s White Paper will be seen as a job well done if they aren’t attacked for going backwards.

The Government will say that it is being tough to insist on publication this side of autumn. Again, as the Times has said,

“To avoid accusations of dithering, No 10 insisted on publication this month, but the paper is expected to me “More Green than White” with many proposals for consultation”

So the pinnacle of Government ambition is now to issue a consultation paper rather than a White Paper – some 7 months after they had originally anticipated.

But there is something even more interesting happening. In order to appear more radical than it is, the Government is beginning to serially publicise criticism of its weakness alongside its own policy statements.

In June the Government recognised that Stephen Bubb’s recommendations on choice and competition in the NHS contained a policy that was much closer to the one in which they believed. Nevertheless they ended up retreating from the policy that they wanted on competition.

Stephen Bubb, as Chair of a third sector organisation, can quite rightly argue, as a matter of policy, that the third sector should play a bigger role in providing services for NHS patients. The Government has decided to outlaw such a policy – but actually secretly believes in it.

So we now have the odd situation where the Government has published one policy but has, at the same time, asked someone independent of it to advocate the policy that they really believe in.

This afternoon, as the Prime Minister announces his weak public service policy reform, he has invited Stephen Bubb – on the same platform – to speak about public service reform. In a letter written a couple of weeks ago Stephen Bubb called upon the Prime Minister to,

“Empower individuals and communities to unleash the potential of the voluntary sector and stand strong in the face of vested interests and institutional inertia”

Since April we have become used to the Government ‘losing control of its health policy’. It has now lost control of its public service reform policy.

What is new is for the Government to encourage an outsider to put forward, at the same time as it announces its own policy, a policy that it would prefer to propose itself – if it had the nerve.

So today we see another example where someone from outside the Government announces the policy that the Government really wants, whilst the Government announces something that they really don’t want to do.

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