Public officials must be free to innovate, says CBI

Public officials should be free to try new approaches without fear of being “hauled in front of ministers, the Public Accounts Committee or being investigated by the National Audit Office”, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) says in a report published today.

By Sarah.Aston

30 Oct 2014

The report, ‘Our future public services: a challenge for us all’, says that the government “has no monopoly of wisdom when it comes to ideas for transformation in public services” and warns that it can only innovate if it’s open to new ideas and collecting “empirical evidence along the way so lessons can be learnt, whatever the final outcome.”

If change in public services now is to be achieved, the report says, “the next government must set about creating a political environment and culture in which public service professionals are encouraged to test new approaches in acceptable ways.”

The report also says that, once the government has eliminated its deficit in 2018-19, it should introduce a “sustainable fiscal rule” ensuring that it spends no more than the revenues it raises.

Katja Hall, deputy director-general of CBI, said: “All parties must recognise that serious structural changes are required to prevent public services suffering inevitable decline through a thousand cuts.”

To save money, the report suggests greater integration of health and social care, citing a study carried out by Aberdeen University.

The research showed that moving responsibility for minor ailments from hospitals to pharmacies, which is already the case in Scotland, could save the NHS in England more than £1bn a year.

The report also called for more services to be available online.

Appointment booking for GPs, prescriptions, GP consultations, government forms and applications, planning applications and school profiles should all be digitalised by 2020 and the Government Digital Services should push for the primary interaction with public services to be digital, the report says. 

“It will take bold decisions like integrating health and social care to address the pressures that an ageing population places on services, especially the NHS,” Hall said, adding: that “managing spending within acceptable limits will demand re-shaping of public services to better meet people’s needs, including increasing the number of services available online.”

Chancellor George Osborne said: "I welcome this powerful analysis from the CBI which shows that high quality public services in the next Parliament will depend on a strong economy, a budget surplus and ongoing reform.

"That is what our long term economic plan will deliver. Those who oppose that plan would put our economy and our public services at risk."

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