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25.02.14

Francis Maude outlines philosophy on ‘tight’ vs ‘loose’ control

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude MP has given a speech on the future of government services, setting out his visions for tight control over back office government functions at the centre – but loose control and outsourcing of operations.

Speaking at the UAE Government Summit in Dubai earlier this month – the text of his speech has only just been released – Maude also emphasises transparency, the digital agenda and innovation.

He argued for “tight control from the centre over common activities”, such as property, IT, procurement, information management and major projects oversight, to cut costs and encourage collaborative working. Otherwise, he says, there is too much fraud, error and debt, and money is wasted on unnecessary consultations.

He said: “Immediately [on coming into office in 2010] we started renegotiating contracts with our biggest suppliers – dealing with them as a single customer instead of letting them play one part of government off against another.We have also reduced the size of the civil service by more than 15%, which allowed us to cut the cost of the government estate by vacating buildings that were no longer needed.

“And we created something that had been lacking in government for too long – a strong corporate centre. Known as the Efficiency and Reform Group it works across artificial departmental boundaries to implement cross government solutions to cross government problems.”

But he said government needs to have less micro-management of actual operational matters and service delivery.

“Spin-outs and services commissioned outside the public sector should become the norm.

“Public service mutuals, joint ventures and charitable enterprise are attractive alternatives to the old binary choice between delivering services in-house or full red-blooded privatisation.

“That was a stagnant, rigid and unimaginative model which stifled innovation.

“So in the UK we are breaking the public sector monopoly over service provision. We already have around 80 live and trading staff owned mutuals, up from just 9 in 2010, with responsibility for well over £1bn worth of services - everything from libraries to elderly social care.They foster a sense of ownership and empowerment. Everyone understands their role. Everyone has an incentive to make it work.

“And it frees public sector workers to do their job as they know best – because the people who know best are not politicians or bureaucrats, but those who deliver frontline services day-in, day-out.”

(Library image of Francis Maude MP: Cabinet Office / Crown Copyright, used here under a Creative Commons licence)

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