Goodbye single departmental plans, hello outcome delivery plans: new system to monitor Whitehall performance revealed

New system will require departments to “more thoroughly consider affordability, capability and risk”, say Cabinet Office and Treasury chiefs
Dominic Lipinski/PA Archive/Press Association Images

By Richard Johnstone

24 Mar 2021

Details have been revealed of the new approach to measuring performance across government that will provide scrutiny of the priority outcomes set for each department in last year’s Spending Review.

In a letter to the Public Accounts Committee chair Meg Hillier, civil service chief operating officer and Cabinet Office permanent secretary Alex Chisholm and Treasury director general of public spending Cat Little said new outcome delivery plans (ODPs) would aim "to improve and builds on previous Single Departmental Plans" and would monitor the priority outcomes set for departments in the 2020 Spending Review. The letter revealed that these priorities had been proposed by departments to measure “progress in their delivery” and were intended to “made progress towards embedding planning and performance more effectively in the [Spending Review] process”.

Following the publication of the one-year SR last November, the Cabinet Office and the Treasury have been working closely with departments and the government functions to develop what Chisholm and Little called a” revised planning and performance framework”, through the new ODPs.

According to the chiefs, these plans require departments to set out both “strategy and planning information for delivery of the provisional priority outcomes”, and information for work on any “strategic ‘enabling’ activities that are crucial to the successful delivery of those outcomes”.

The ODPs will also be used to improve policy evaluation, after what Chisholm and Little said were the “detailed overviews of evidence bases and evaluation plans that departments provided to inform decisions at SR20”.

Summary versions of ODPs for the 2021-22 financial year will be published later this year following approval by the Cabinet Office, Treasury and No.10, the letter said. Departments will be required to “report regularly” to the Cabinet Office and Treasury on progress to provide “an ongoing picture of departmental activity against the ODP, enabling greater shared understanding of performance and early action where delivery is off track”.

The letter included a diagram to set out how the new planning and performance framework works.

It also revealed plans for a new evaluation taskforce in government to “improve knowledge of what truly delivers outcomes for citizens” in 2021-22, laying the groundwork for what are expected to be longer-term settlements in a 2021 Spending Review.

The ODPs are also intended to lead to improvements in a number of other areas. They will support joint working across the priority outcomes that were shared across departments, and also support the shared funding agreed to match specific policy outcomes in the Shared Outcomes Fund, for which a second round of funding was announced at last year’s Spending Review.

The new ODPs will also require departments to “more thoroughly consider affordability, capability and risk through the new ODPs, to ensure more realistic and deliverable plans”, according to Chisholm and Little. This means departmental and agency accounting officers – normally permanent secretaries of chief executives – and functional leads such as finance directors “will play a vital supporting role in scrutinising plans and ensuring their deliverability”, with the Public Value Framework created by former No.10 Delivery Unit chef Sir Michael Barber being used across government as “an important assessment tool to help departments identify how they will improve delivery of priority outcomes”.

There will also be a focus on improved use of data and reporting, with the Treasury using the new plans and the Spending Review settlement to set new data standards and data-sharing requirements.

The letter also noted that the prime minister Boris Johnson and cabinet secretary Simon Case had asked Sir Michael Barber to conduct a rapid review of government delivery to ensure that it remains focused, effective and efficient, and to suggest how it could be strengthened. However, it did not say if this review, which was commissioned in January, has concluded or made recommendations.

Chisholm and Little said the package of changes to Whitehall oversight “will improve our understanding of what interventions deliver the most meaningful outcomes and support greater accountability around how public money is spent to deliver real-world outcomes. The new ODPs and their corresponding performance information will be used to inform future spending reviews.”

The priorities for each department are:

Department of Health and Social Care

  • Improve healthcare outcomes for people by providing high-quality and sustainable care at the right time in the right place
  • Improve healthcare outcomes through a supported workforce fit for the future
  • Improve and protect the public’s health, including from Covid-19, while reducing health inequalities
  • Improve social care outcomes through an affordable, high-quality and sustainable adult social care system

Department for Education

  • Drive economic growth through improving the skills pipeline, levelling up productivity and supporting people to work (This is a cross-cutting outcome. Contributing departments are BEIS, DCMS, DWP and MHCLG.)
  • Level up education standards so that children and young people in every part of the country are prepared with the knowledge, skills, and qualifications they need
  • Provide the best start in life through high-quality early education and childcare to raise standards and help parents to work (This is a cross-cutting outcome. Contributing departments are DWP and HMRC.)
  • Support the most disadvantaged and vulnerable to maximise opportunity and reduce dependency, supported by high quality local services. (4 This is a cross-cutting outcome. Contributing departments are DCMS, DHSC, DWP, HO, MHCLG and MoJ.)

Home Office

  • Reduce crime (This is a cross-cutting outcome. Contributing departments are: DCMS, DfE, DHSC, DWP, legal officers, MHCLG, and MoJ)
  • Reduce the risk from terrorism to the UK and UK interests overseas (This is a cross-cutting outcome. Contributing departments are CO, FCDO and MoD)
  • Enable the legitimate movement of people and goods contributing to the UK’s status as a top destination to live, visit and do business
  • Improve border security and reduce opportunities to enter illegally or to smuggle illicit goods, and protect vulnerable people.

Ministry of Justice

  • Protect the public from serious offenders and improve the safety and security of our prisons
  • Reduce reoffending
  • Deliver swift access to justice. (This is a cross-cutting outcome. Contributing departments are BEIS, DfE, DWP, HO and law officers’ departments.)

Law officers’ departments

Cmprising the Crown Prosecution Service, the Serious Fraud Office, the Attorney General's Office and the Government Legal Department

  • Improve public safety by delivering justice through independent and fair prosecutions
  • Enhance the effectiveness of the criminal justice system through timely prosecutions and improved casework quality
  • Protect society through the independent investigation and prosecution of top tier crimes involving serious or complex fraud, bribery and corruption.

Ministry of Defence

  • Protect the UK and its overseas territories
  • Enhance global security through persistent engagement and response to crises
  • Contribute to NATO collective deterrence and defence
  • Modernise and integrate defence capabilities by taking a whole force approach to our people and increasing the use of technology and innovation.

Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and Official Development Assistance

  • Ensure the UK is a force for good in the world, supporting sustainable development, humanitarian needs, and promoting human rights and democracy
  • Make the UK safer and more resilient to global threats
  • Extend and amplify the UK’s influence in the world, including through successful application for ASEAN dialogue partner status.

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government

  • More, better quality, safer, greener and more affordable homes
  • End rough sleeping through more effective prevention and crisis intervention services, and reduce homelessness by enabling local authorities to fully meet their statutory duties (This is a cross-cutting outcome. Contributing departments are MoJ, HO, DHSC, DWP and DfE.)
  • Raise productivity and empower places so that everyone across the country can benefit from levelling up. (This is a cross-cutting outcome. Contributing departments are BEIS, DCMS, Defra, DfE, DfT, DIT and DWP.)

Department for Transport

  • Improve connectivity across the United Kingdom and grow the economy by enhancing the transport network on time and on budget
  • Tackle climate change and improve air quality by decarbonising transport
  • Build confidence in the transport network as the country recovers from Covid-19 and improve transport users’ experience, ensuring that the network is safe, reliable, and inclusive

Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

  • Reduce UK greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 (This is a cross-cutting outcome. Contributing departments are Defra, DfT, HMT and MHCLG)
  • Support increased productivity through unleashing innovation and new knowledge throughout the country
  • Back business by making the UK the best place in the world to start and grow a business
  • Fight Covid-19 by helping businesses to bounce back from the impacts of Covid-19, supporting a safe return to work and accelerating the development and manufacture of a vaccine.

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

  • Increase economic growth and productivity through improved digital connectivity
  • Grow and evolve our sectors domestically and globally, in particular those sectors most affected by Covid-19, including culture, sport, civil society, and the creative industries
  • Increase growth through expanding the use of data and digital technology and increasing innovation, while minimising digital harms to the UK’s economic security and society
  • Enhance the cohesiveness of our communities and nations including through major events and ceremonial occasions, and reduce inequalities of participation in society, particularly among young people.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

  • Improve the environment through cleaner air and water, minimised waste, and thriving plants and terrestrial and marine wildlife
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon storage in the agricultural, waste, peat and tree planting sectors to help deliver net zero
  • Reduce the likelihood and impact of flooding and coastal erosion on people, businesses, communities and the environment

Department for International Trade

  • Secure world-class free trade agreements and reduce market access barriers, ensuring that consumers and businesses can benefit from both
  • Deliver economic growth to all the nations and regions of the UK through attracting and retaining inward investment
  • Support UK business to take full advantage of trade opportunities, including those arising from delivering FTAs, facilitating UK exports
  • Champion the rules-based international trading system and operate the UK’s new trading system, including protecting UK businesses from unfair trade practices.

Department for Work and Pensions

  • Maximise employment across the country to aid economic recovery following Covid-19 (This is a cross-cutting outcome. Contributing departments are BEIS, HMT, DfE and MHCLG)
  • Improve opportunities for all through work, including groups that are currently underrepresented in the workforce
  • Address poverty through enabling progression into the workforce and increasing financial resilience (This is a cross-cutting outcome. Contributing departments are HMT, DfE and MHCLG)
  • Deliver a reliable, high-quality welfare and pensions system which customers have confidence in.

HM Revenue and Customs

  • Collect the right tax and pay the right financial support
  • Make it easy to get tax right and hard to bend or break the rules
  • Maintain taxpayers’ consent by treating everyone fairly and protecting society from harm.

HM Treasury

  • Place the public finances on a sustainable footing by controlling public spending and designing sustainable taxes
  • Level up the economy, by ensuring strong employment and increasing productivity across the regions and nations of the UK
  • Ensure the stability of the macro-economic environment and financial system.

Cabinet Office

  • Ensure the benefits of the Union are clear, visible and understood to all citizens (This is a cross-cutting outcome. Contributing departments are Scotland Office, Northern Ireland Office and Wales Office)
  • Increase the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of government through modernization and reform
  • Improve levels of equality across the UK
  • Seize the opportunities of EU exit, through creating the world’s most effective border to increase UK prosperity and enhance security (This is a cross-cutting outcome. Contributing departments are HO, Defra and HMRC)
  • Secure a safe, prosperous and resilient United Kingdom by coordinating national security strategy and crisis response

Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland & Advocate General for Scotland:

  • Support economic growth in Scotland
  • Strengthen and sustain the Union and Scotland’s role within it
  • Increase the visibility of the UK government’s commitment to Scotland.

Northern Ireland Office

  • Support the levelling up of Northern Ireland’s economy with the rest of the UK
  • Support greater inclusion, tolerance, and openness in Northern Ireland
  • Contribute to a safer Northern Ireland, where terrorist and paramilitary groups are less able to cause harm to communities
  • Ensure that governance in Northern Ireland is responsive, transparent, and able to deliver effective public services.

Office of the Secretary of State for Wales

  • Support economic growth in Wales
  • Strengthen and sustain the Union and Wales’s role within it
  • Increase the visibility of the UK government’s commitment to Wales

Cross-cutting spending

The 2020 Spending Review expanded the Shared Outcomes Fund, which provides money for pilot projects to test innovative ways of collaborative working across the public sector

The Spending Review has announced a further £200m will be made available for projects under the scheme.

The 24 projects are:

  • Drugs enforcement and treatment (£28.0m – Home Office (HO), Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Public Health England (PHE), National Crime Agency, Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG), National Police Chiefs Council): Five pilots across England and Wales to take a whole-system response to tackling drug use through better join up of local law enforcement agencies, prisons and health and social care services
  • Transition to adulthood hubs (£3.0m – MoJ, Youth Justice Board, MHCLG, DHSC): This pilot aims to reduce reoffending by meeting the needs of young adults (18-25) and 17-year olds due to transition from youth offending services into adult probation services in London. The pilot will co-locate Youth Offending Services and probation staff alongside other services for young adults to create smoother transitions
  • Prison leavers (£20.0m – MoJ, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), MHCLG, Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, DHSC, Department for Education, NHS England: The project will work closely with service users and stakeholders from across government, and the third and private sectors to test ways to improve the social inclusion of people leaving prison, and reduce reoffending
  • Creating opportunities forum for tackling serious violence (£3.7m – HO, DWP, DCMS, DHSC, DfE): This pilot will work with the private and third sectors to generate employment opportunities and wraparound support packages for vulnerable young people at risk of serious violence
  • Grand avenues (£0.5m – MoJ, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service): This pilot aims to bring service providers together to work with offenders and their families in a community focussed way to address issues around intergenerational offending
  • Early intervention (£1.8m – MoJ, HO, MHCLG, DHSC): This pilot will work with police and health specialists to better join up services for police forces to manage offences outside of court, understand which interventions are effective, and improve data on the impact of the interventions on reoffending
  • Criminal justice system demand insights (£1.0 million – MoJ, HO, Crown Prosecution Service): This pilot aims to improve understanding of the whole system dynamics between policing and prisons, improving resource planning and enhancing future demand forecast capability
  • Regionalisation of serious and organised crime powers and the management of serious crime prevention orders (£0.3m – HO, MoJ): This pilot will test a new approach to improve the management and monitoring of SCPOs in the south east region
  • Data improvement (£9.6m – DfE, HO, MHCLG, DHSC, MoJ, DCMS, CO): A pilot designed to improve the cross-departmental evidence base and use of data to inform policy decisions and service delivery for children and young people
  • Open regulation platform (£4.6m – Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, Department for International Trade, DCMS, Government Digital Service): This pilot will test processing and enriching business regulation into machine readable data, and making it publicly available to enable third parties to develop tools that help businesses identify and comply with regulatory obligations
  • Small cell 5G development (£7.0m – DCMS, Department for Transport): This project aims to increase 5G network capacity by working with local authorities to purchase multi-use ‘street furniture’
  • Online harms (£2.7m – DCMS, HO, Cabinet Office (CO), DHSC): This pilot will test innovative solutions to establish permanent systems to improve data sharing, reducing online harms
  • Emerging drone technology (£1.6m – DfT, BEIS): This pilot provides access to match-funding to UK businesses and other organisations to undertake drone trialling activity and share learning on commercial drone use
  • Multiple complex needs (£46.0m – MHCLG, DHSC, MoJ, HO, CO, DCMS, NHS England, PHE): Fifteen pilots to establish multi-agency partnerships testing interventions to improve the lives of adults who are affected by a combination of three or more of: homelessness; criminal offending; substance misuse; domestic abuse; or poor mental health
  • Out-of-hospital care models (£15.9m – DHSC, MHCLG, MoJ, HO): This pilot is designed to improve access to a pathway of step-down accommodation and support from hospital for individuals who are homeless
  • Cross-government refugee transitions outcomes fund (£10.0m– HO, DWP, MHCLG, local authorities): This pilot will help support the self-sufficiency of newly granted refugees across the UK, by delivering employment support and housing support
  • Loneliness (£5.9m – DfT, MHCLG, DCMS, CO, NHS England): This pilot will provide grants for organisations to use transport-related schemes to reduce loneliness
  • Early legal advice (£5.0m – MoJ, MHCLG, DWP): This pilot will trial early legal advice in social welfare law to those whose issues have the propensity to reach crisis point and later require representation in court
  • Growing up well (£11.8m – DfE, DHSC, DWP, MHCLG, CO): This pilot aims to improve cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes (such as language skills and health) for disadvantaged and vulnerable 0-5 year olds through improving the family user experience of early years services
  • Green social prescribing and mental health (£4.3 m – Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), DCMS, DHSC, MHCLG, Natural England, PHE, NHS England): The project will examine how to scale-up green social prescribing services to help improve mental health outcomes and reduce health inequalities
  • Place-based working (£5.0m – MHCLG, DCMS, DEFRA, DfE, DHSC, DWP, HO, MoJ, CO): This pilot will test a new place-based model of policy design and delivery which drives greater cross-Whitehall coordination
  • Unlocking Solent housing (£3.9m– DEFRA, MHCLG, Natural England, Environment Agency, Forestry Commission): The pilot will develop and trial a nutrient trading platform and reverse auction process, connecting developers with land managers willing to deliver nature-based solutions for nitrate pollution mitigation
  • Increasing non-woodland tree cover (£2.5m– DEFRA, MHCLG and other key stakeholders): This pilot will develop new approaches to planting or encouraging trees outside woodlands, to improve tree cover, ecological restoration and climate change mitigation and adaptation
  • Offshore wind enabling actions programme (£4.3m – DEFRA, BEIS): A programme designed to increase understanding of the environmental impacts of offshore wind and find strategic solutions to reduce barriers to its expansion in English waters.

Subscribe to CSW's daily bulletin to read more stories civil servants can't afford to miss

Read the most recent articles written by Richard Johnstone - Building the future: Steven Boyd on making government property work for the civil service

Share this page