Bolder, Braver and Better: why we need local deals to save public services
- 16 March 2015
- Posted by: Helen Nicol
- Category: Archive
Bolder, Braver and Better was the title of the report created by the Transformation Challenge Panel – published November 2014
1. Public services matter. They can transform life chances for the most vulnerable, help keep our society
strong, and support our people and country to be competitive for the future. At their best they enable
people to help themselves and others. But demographic trends, rapidly evolving user expectations and
sustained financial pressure mean that our public services have to change.
2. To better understand the complex implications of these trends on public services in different places,
we visited towns, cities and rural areas across England. In each place we met a cross section of people
from the local community and service providers: those that use and rely on public services, politicians,
community and business leaders, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), the Police, the NHS and
Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and front line professionals caring for the most vulnerable
in their communities. In our view, it is these local people that are best placed to understand the needs
of their place and their communities, and therefore how services should be designed to meet them.
3. Politicians of all parties must be prepared to have an honest and open debate with the public about
the fiscal and demographic challenges we face. In return, local people and communities will need to
take greater responsibility for the way services are designed and delivered. And there will need to be
more direct local mechanisms to hold providers to account for outcomes. To achieve that will require
a significant change in the way local public services and government work together.
4. Our public services are already responding. We found an intelligent programme of modernisation, pay
restraint, cost reduction, better procurement, outsourcing, management reorganisations and service
sharing. There is still scope for further efficiencies. But public services need to be more ambitious than
that. Additional efficiencies will not be enough to deal with the combination of demographic and
financial pressure and changes in public expectations about service quality.
5. Genuine service transformation that goes far beyond general efficiencies and better ways of working is
required. However, even though it is a top priority in many of the places we visited we could find only
isolated pockets. We heard first-hand that many places pride themselves on their ability to innovate,
particularly in response to budget cuts. But, we also observed that too little attention is being paid to
adapt and implement proven change developed elsewhere.
6. Transformative system change takes time. Social outcomes and fiscal benefits are longer term. It is
clear that these are early days. As yet, there is limited accessible evidence available about what works.
In our view, more publically available evidence about transformational approaches that have delivered
better outcomes and savings over a sustained period is needed. Demand is rising, expectations
changing and budgets declining; and the need for urgency and rigour is more pressing than ever.
7. In this report we define transformation as radically re-designed approaches to service provision that
reduces unit costs and is difficult to reverse. In practice that will mean:
- people are the focus of delivery, regardless of the organisations providing or commissioning;
- outcomes for people take priority over output or process targets and measures;
- frequent users of public services are encouraged to make better choices, mitigate their own costs
and contribute to their communities, and services designed to encourage and facilitate responsible
- multi-agency provision of services, virtual and physical co-location are the norm, service silos
and duplication are eliminated; and,
- digital technologies and big data are embedded in the design and delivery of services to
improve customer experience.
8. We make a number of recommendations, but call for three fundamental changes:
- A new person centred approach to help specific groups and individuals with multiple and
complex needs. Services should be designed around the needs of the person to deliver better
outcomes. Local agencies should be incentivised, through place-based budgeting, pooled budgets
or other means, to work together more effectively to achieve this. Government should commit
now to doing the work needed to enable the next spending review to put this approach into
- More easily accessible and more flexible funding available to invest in the upfront costs of
transformation. Government acknowledges the need to provide additional resources to help
local areas to achieve radical transformation. But there are currently over 30 funds from different
departments and with different criteria and allocation methods, thereby only addressing partial
solutions. Not only is this inefficient, but Government may not be getting the impact it should for
the taxpayer by retaining much of the risk of failure. By funding through grants, opportunities
are being missed to give local partners a real stake in their success. Transformation funds should
be rationalised and brought together with existing and new capital flexibilities and prudential
borrowing to create a single £5 billion transformation investment fund. Government should
commit now to doing this at the next spending review.
- Radical improvements in how data and technology are used to provide smarter services.
Public services are a long way behind the technological advances and new ways of using data that
consumers now take for granted. They need to catch up. The public want more convenient access
to services and expect their data to be used to improve quality and outcomes.
9. Our consideration of the challenges places face to transform public services has been enriched
by the breadth and depth of professional experience that different members of our Panel have
brought to bear. To ensure that our recommendations are based on real local experiences and wellinformed
by the national debate, as well as visiting places and meeting service users, we have spent
the last six months speaking to Ministers, Government departments, think tanks, voluntary and
community groups, and private sector organisations. We also received written evidence from over 150
10. Despite the challenges we are generally optimistic about the opportunities to achieve genuine
transformation across public services. We have been encouraged by the enthusiastic leaders and front
line workers who are already taking the initiative to radically change how they provide better services
for the local people they serve. Such forward-thinking people are leading the way and challenging
others to be more ambitious. We need to back them, harness and direct their enthusiasm. Most
importantly, we need to make it easier for more places to do the same, whilst holding them to account
locally, so the people who matter actually benefit.