Throughout the last few years of coalition and now Conservative government there have been a couple of constant themes around dealing with the deficit.
The first has been a determination to cut costs across the public sector in an effort to shave billions off the amount paid out across Whitehall to government departments and in councils across the country.
The second theme has been to try to involve more of the private sector in selling to government to try and get better value for money and to support a wider number of suppliers.
Many in the channel have argued consistently over the last eight years that if they were given the chance they could use their technical knowledge and integration skills to dave the public sector millions.
Some have been given that chance but by the government’s own admission it is still not yet managing to hit the SME supplier targets it set itself and other players would also like to have a crack at supplying to the public sector.
The belief that the private sector, and some untapped by government, still hold a lot of the answers to some f the current public sector problems is one hell by CBI director general John Cridland.
He used a speech at an event in London at the end of the last week to put forward his thoughts about how to shrink the state without doing that intelligently. How products and services were purchased by the state formed a big part of his advice for the government.
He started by praising some of the efforts that had been made to try and be more open minded about the way that public services were run, but added that more work had to be done.
“But while efficiency is necessary, it’s not sufficient. Shrinking the state without making it smarter isn’t sustainable. And “efficiency” is just the first word in the bigger conversation about public services,” he said.
“That’s why I’m calling on the Government today to move onto the next step of their plan – transformation. Gradual evolution – a few tweaks here, a few efficiency savings there – won’t be enough. Real transformation isn’t about evolution – it’s about revolution,” he added If some councils continue to put ‘who’ provides a service above ‘what’ service is delivered, it will ultimately mean less choice and less value for money.”
Some of that change is going to be detailed fairly soon as the government reveals exactly where the latest swings of the axe will fall and Cridland revealed his wish list from the forthcoming Spending Review.
“The Government’s decisions on the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review will be crucial. In particular, the individual actions of Whitehall, local councils and the NHS will ‘make or break’ public service transformation. For each, the final solutions will be different. But the approach taken will often be same – combining cutting-edge technology, joined-up services and a long-term perspective,” he said.
Having talked about the need for cutting-edge technology he then went on to talk about how more cooperation was needed from the public and private sectors.
“Business can provide the large-scale investment in the new technologies and systems which will drive transformation. But business has a lot more to bring to the table than just cold-hard cash. Private sector firms have the know-how, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit to help produce the future-proof public services we’re all looking for,” he said.
“Yet transforming public services also means transforming how the Government – as a customer – interacts with business,” he added.
Once the full details of the Spending Review come out the pressure will be on those impacted departments and councils to try and meet their obligations to provide digital services within the confines of a tighter budget. That should be the moment when more dialogue between the channel takes place.