Tag Archives: Open Public Services White Paper

Rights to Provide plans focus on “potential offered by mutual models” to improve services

By David Bicknell

The Government has detailed how it is developing and implementing Rights to Provide to “empower front line staff across the public sector to take over the services they deliver,” possibly through the creation of new mutuals.

The Government said it has identified local authorities’ services, fire services, probation and adult social care as some of the areas for developing new mutuals. This it says, will be backed by enhanced support available to staff through the Mutuals Information Service and the Mutuals Support Programme.

In announcing an updated discussion paper David Cameron said increasing parental choice in schools, extending personal budgets so people can choose how they spend money on services and increasing the transparency of public service performance and user satisfaction are all part of the next steps to improve public services by opening them up.  The paper updates the Open Public Service (OPS) White Paper published last summer.

Launching the new paper, Cameron said: “Nearly two years on from coming into office, brick by brick, edifice by edifice, we are slowly dismantling the big-state structures we inherited from the last government. We are putting people in control, giving them the choices and chances that they get in almost every other area of life. There is still a way to go and this kind of change will not happen overnight. But no one should doubt my determination to make our public services better, by opening them up.”

Specifically on mutuals, the paper says:

“Alongside the focus on digital delivery, and as a core part of work to reform the Civil Service, Government Commercial Teams are working with individual departments to identify where new commercial models would accelerate reform and improve services. In some cases, this may involve high-quality in-house delivery; in other cases outsourcing may offer best value.

“We are particularly interested in the potential offered by mutual models, including mutual joint ventures, that give employees much greater say in the way their organisation is run, for example the model being considered for MyCSP.

“To ensure that the benefits of mutualisation are available across the wider public sector, we are giving public sector staff new Rights to Provide – empowering employees to form public service mutuals to bid or request to take over the services they deliver. This will empower millions of public sector staff to become their own boss,freeing up untapped entrepreneurial and innovative drive.

“Public service mutuals are now well established in community healthcare, with thousands of public servants working in new mutuals with contracts worth almost £1 billion. We have extended these rights to new areas, including adult social care and NHS trusts, and we are looking to go further, in areas such as youth services, probation services, children’s centres, and fire and rescue services.

“We have been actively working with fledgling mutuals on the ground, for example through the Mystery Shopper service and the Mutuals Information Service; and we are supporting some of the most promising and innovative mutuals to reach the point of investment readiness, through the Mutuals Support Programme – a fund of more than £10 million to contract for support in the form of business and professional services to groups of staff who want to form mutuals or existing mutual organisations in the public sector. A steady stream of applications is developing into a pipeline of projects.”

The Government said all its departments will put in place a Right to Provide to empower employees in public services for which they are responsible to s pin out to create new public service mutuals. Public sector workers who want to formmutuals or co-operatives to deliver public services will be given a Right to Provide.

The Government will look to reflect these commitments in departmental business plans where appropriate.

Information from the Mutuals Information Service will inform departmental policy development, the new paper says.  

It points out that “the Department of Health’s Right to Request is near completion, with 40 services now operating as independent social enterprises and further projects to go live by April 2012. The Right to Provide has generated interest across NHS trusts, foundation trusts and adult social care.

“The Department of Health is already exploring opportunities to support social enterprises and mutuals spinning out from the NHS, social care and adult social work. The status of other government departments is as follows:

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Further Education – now starting

Home Office – not yet started

Ministry of Justice – now starting; commitments will be reflected in the Department’s business plan 

Department for Work and Pensions – not yet started

Department for Education Youth Services, and Social Work – now starting

Department for Education Children’s Centres – not yet started.

Other Links

Cabinet Office news release

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School report on Govt ICT Strategy – a good start

By Tony Collins

In a review of progress on the Government’s ICT Strategy after six months, the National Audit Office says that the Cabinet Office has made a “positive and productive start to implementing the Strategy”.

The NAO says that at least 70 people from the public sector have worked on the Strategy in the first six months though the public sector will need “at least another 84 people to deliver projects in the Plan”.

The UK Government’s ICT Strategy is more ambitious than the strategies in the US, Australia, Netherlands and Denmark, because it sets out three main aims:

– reducing waste and project failure

– building a common ICT infrastructure

– using ICT to enable and deliver change

The US Government’s ICT Strategy, in contrast, encompasses plans for a common infrastructure only – and these plans have not produced the expected savings, says the NAO.

In a paragraph that may be little noticed in the report, the NAO says that senior managers in central government have plans to award new ICT contracts (perhaps along the pre-coalition lines) in case the common solutions developed for the ICT Strategy are “not available in time”.

The NAO report also says that “suppliers were cautious about investing in new products and services because of government’s poor progress in implementing previous strategies”.

Of 17 actions in the Strategy that were due by September 2011, seven were delivered on time. Work on most of the other actions is underway and a “small number” are still behind schedule says the NAO.

The NAO calls on government to “broaden the focus to driving business change”.

Some successes of the UK’s ICT Strategy as identified by the NAO:

* The Cabinet Office has set up a small CIO Delivery Board led by the Government CIO Joe Harley to implement the ICT Strategy. The Board’s members include the Corporate IT Director at the DWP, CIOs at the Home Office, MoD, HMRC, Ministry of Justice and Department for Health, together with key officials at the Cabinet Office. The departmental CIOs on the Board are responsible directly to Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, for implementing the ICT Strategy in their departments and are accountable to their own minister. No conflicts have arisen

* Senior managers in central government and the ICT industry are willing to align their strategies for ICT with new cross-government solutions and standards but need more detail.

*  Some suppliers have offered help to government to develop its thinking and help accelerate the pace of change in ICT in government.

* The Cabinet Office intended that delivering the Strategy would be resourced from existing budgets. Staff have been redirected from other tasks to work on implementing the Strategy. “We have found collaborative working across departmental boundaries. For example HMRC and the MoD have combined resources to develop a strategy for greener ICT. Teams producing the strategies for cloud computing and common desktops and mobile devices have worked together to reduce the risk of overlap and gaps.

* The BBC has shown the way in managing dozens of suppliers rather than relying on one big company. For BBC’s digital media initiative, the Corporation manages 47 separate suppliers, says the NAO.

* The Cabinet Office intends that departments will buy components of ICT infrastructure from a range of suppliers rather than signing a small number of long-term contracts; and to make sure different systems share data the Cabinet Office is agreeing a set of open technical standards.

* Some of the larger departments have already started to consolidate data centres, though the NAO said that the programme as a whole is moving slowly and no robust business case is yet in place.

* The Cabinet Office is starting to involve SMEs. It has established a baseline of current procurement spending with SMEs – 6.5% of total government spend – and hopes that the amount of work awarded to SMEs will increase to 25%. Government has started talking “directly to SMEs”, says the NAO.

Some problems identified in the NAO report:

* Cloud computing and agile skills are lacking. “Government also lacks key business skills. Although it has ouitsourced ICT systems development and services for many years, our reports have often stated that government is not good at managing commercial relationships and contracts or procurement.”

* Suppliers doubt real change will happen. The NAO says that suppliers doubted whether “government had the appropriate skills to move from using one major supplier to deliver ICT solutions and services, to managing many suppliers of different sizes providing different services”.

* The Government CIO Joe Harley, who promoted collaboration, is leaving in early 2012, as is his deputy Bill McCluggage. The NAO suggests their departures may “adversely affect” new ways of working.

* The NAO interviewed people from departments, agencies and ICT suppliers whose concern was that “short-term financial pressure conflicted with the need for the longer-term reform of public services”.

* The culture change required to implement the Strategy “may be a significant barrier”.

* The Cabinet Office acknowledges that the government does not have a definitive record of ICT spend in central government (which would make it difficult to have a baseline against which cuts could be shown).

* The Cabinet Office has not yet defined how reform and improved efficiency in public services will be measured across central government, as business outcomes against an agreed baseline.

**

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said today: ” ICT is going to play an increasingly important role in changing how government works and how services are provided.

“The Government’s ICT Strategy is in its early days and initial signs are good. However, new ways of working are as dependent on developing the skills of people in the public sector as they are on changes to technology and processes; the big challenge is to ensure that the Strategy delivers value in each of these areas.”

NAO report:  Implementing the Government ICT Strategy: six-month review of progress.

SaaS or Cloud SME? – get in touch says Cabinet Office official

By Tony Collins

Chris Chant, Executive Director in the Cabinet Office working as Programme Director for the G-Cloud initiative, says in a blog post that “if you are an SME and you have a SaaS or other cloud service that government might use – we want to know about it”.

Chant says the government is changing the way it buys and uses IT. “We have trained our suppliers and ourselves to think that we need big, complex solutions to complicated problems; which has meant that all too often it’s only the big, complex suppliers that get a look in.

“We are changing all this. We are giving SMEs and ourselves a chance to work together by levelling the playing field for all IT suppliers.”

Chant says it won’t happen overnight and mistakes may be made.  “This is new territory for many departments and very few are experienced at handling this new way of working.

“I think it’s fair to say that many just can’t see how this can happen yet though
many know it must.” Government users are not so different to others.

“First off government has realised that it’s not that different. From now
on, if government wants some IT,  it needs to do what everyone else does and look  at what’s already available, not just what we can pay to have built for us and not just what we are used to doing.

“It will be uncomfortable, uncharted territory for many but it must be done. It is unacceptable for things to remain the same. So if you are a SME and you have a SaaS or other cloud service that government might use – we want to know about it.”

Chant says that government will use open standards wherever it can, and buy IT on pay-as-you-go or short term contracts.

“Some contracts may be longer but there must be a break option, in my view, at no later than 12 months.

“Of course organisations will offer lower prices for longer lock-ins but, as I’ve said before, the cost of being unable to exit will almost always outweigh the savings.”

Chant says that if you are an SME, any supplier that’s never worked with government, or an existing supplier that “gets” cloud “you are the type of people we need to work with the deliver the savings all of us need”.

Talk to us, he adds.

Chris Chant’s blog post.

Vested interests will try to stop GovIT changing.

Mutualism: “perhaps the most flexible and beneficial way of transforming our public services”

By David Bicknell

Phillip Blond, director of the ResPublica think tank has discussed the future role of mutuals in Serco’s Ethos journal.

Blond suggests mutualism “represents perhaps the most flexible and beneficial way of transforming our public services. Happily, the government is committed to this model: Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, has stated that he would like to see a million public sector workers employed in mutuals by 2015. In simple terms, mutualism is based on principles of reciprocity, equity and fairness. It is a system that allows for equity (what you put in and therefore can take out), be that in terms of finance or services, to be realised in any number of ways.”

To achieve the positive transformation of our public services, he says, “we need to find new models of mutualism fit for the 21st century. This means creating innovative ways of bringing together public and private capital, enabling private companies to make a fair return from their capital investments, while at the same time giving all those involved a stake or return of some sort.”

An example, he suggests, comes from the energy sector. “In Denmark, a community will often allow an incinerator to be built in their neighbourhood (in Britain the very idea would provoke mass protest) but they get cheaper electricity in return, often around 30%. The incinerators, designed by the very best architects, cut down radically on waste disposal and landfill. In addition, house price values increase for those on the local energy network because bills are cheaper, and the strategy is seen as ethical. To me, this type of reciprocal economy is a form of mutualism.”

As to whether the government’s goal of seeing a million public sector workers in mutuals by 2015 is achievable, Blond says this,  “It is possible but the challenges are considerable. Many public sector workers are driven by vocation, and if they see that they can provide a better service within a mutual framework, then mutualism in the public sector can succeed.

“But employees can’t be offered risk for no return; you have to offer certain guarantees if you want them to move to a new platform. The offer to public sector workers has to be geniune. It has to be based on an equity stake, on the security of a viable business model (which means good contracts for the initial spin out companies) and on the genuine option of learning new skills, while also letting people share in the efficiencies that result.”

You can read Blond’s piece, plus a response from Jane Dudman here

The Journal also carries a piece on implementing the Open Public Services White Paper

Office for Public Management discusses mutuals agenda

This blog from the Office of Public Management sets out the possible landscape for mutuals over the next few months now that the consultation period for the Open Public Services White Paper has come to a close.

It suggests that a follow on report explaining how departments will take open public services forward should be expected in November.

There is some background on OPM and mutuals here. The organisation is also organising an event  at the 2011 National Children and Adult Services (NCAS) conference around the local authority spinning out of  children’s and adults’ services.

Socitm response to the Open Public Services White Paper

Hammersmith & Fulham Pathfinder expected to launch in January 2012

Mutuals: IT group’s white paper response warns of risk of ‘fragmented and disconnected IT systems’

By David Bicknell

In its response to the Open Public Services White Paper, Socitm,  the association for all IT professionals working in local authorities and the public and third sectors, has said it welcomes the prescription for strong local government set out in the White Paper.

“Greater freedoms from central control, devolution of functions, funding following the individual, power and control to neighbourhoods, enhanced local democracy, community budgets and commissioning combine to create a vision of the future” consistent with its own strategy for IT-enabled local public service reform launched by earlier this year.”

But, it argues, “this liberating, optimistic future is at variance with much of the current commentary about the future of local public services which is based on analysis of the likely impact of actual policies that have been put in place.”

For example, it says, the recent NLGN report, Future Councils, envisages four types of council emerging by 2020:

Clustered – federations of local authorities sharing many services;

Residual – councils that have followed strategic commissioning to its logical conclusion, divesting themselves of all direct service provision;

Commercial – entrepreneurial councils, selling services to other local authorities and the private sector;

Lifestyle – local authorities which establish a particular brand for their area and focus their energies on promoting that brand.

Socitm’s view is that all these models would have a detrimental impact on the ability of local politicians to shape local services in response to local needs in the ways envisaged in the Open Public Services White Paper. None, it argues, would enthuse local government employees with a sense of purpose nor, consequently, commitment to the proposals presented.

It insists that it is not arguing for maintaining the status quo. On the contrary, it says, change is essential if the relationship between the public and public service is to be rebuilt. Reform would be founded upon greater collaboration, redesign and innovation in which local public services organisations continually renew themselves. Local authorities would play a key role by becoming ‘reforming’ councils.

However, Socitm doesn’t appear to be too keen on mutuals and new service providers playing a role. Its response says, “Reforming councils recognise that much of their ability to transform is enabled by developments in information handling and technology deployment. Merely implementing technology is not in itself the change needed. Fundamental changes to processes, organisational structures, job roles and cultures are also required across localities and public service organisations. This will be essential if citizens and neighbourhoods are to be empowered, rather than confronted by a plethora of fragmented and disconnected information systems run by mutuals and other new and existing service providers.”

In the past, Socitm has criticised central government ICT strategies for being too focused on central government and for failing to include local government effectively enough in its thinking.

Socitm says, “Socitm supports the principle of anytime, anywhere, any place availability of public services referenced in section 7.9 of the White Paper.

“The new Government Digital Service (GDS) is presented as the agency that will drive this development. However, the scope of the GDS, as set out in the White Paper, spans central government only; this is at odds with our understanding that the intention of GDS is to cover all public services.

“Four billion of the five billion citizen-government transactions that take place annually are estimated to involve local public services. Consequently, devolution of central government services and their digital delivery will require close integration with local public services if they are to make any sense to the citizen and other service users in localities.

“This issue not mentioned in the White Paper and Socitm is aware of a number of current initiatives supporting distributed service access and digital by default where the centralist, top-down, large scale, standardised, single supplier approach to implementation continues to dominate.

“The hugely important ID authentication and Universal Credit projects fall into this category – local public services have not yet been consulted on these projects despite the extensive experience and know-how they have in establishing service users‟ identities and of taking benefits to the most vulnerable and excluded in our society.”

Firecontrol: same mistakes repeated on other projects

By Tony Collins

A report published today by the Public Accounts Committee on the £469m Firecontrol project reads much like its others on government IT-enabled project disasters.

Margaret Hodge, chair of the Committee said:

“This is one of the worst cases of project failure that the committee has seen in many years. FiReControl was an ambitious project with the objectives of improving national resilience, efficiency and technology by replacing the control room functions of 46 local Fire and Rescue Services in England with a network of nine purpose-built regional control centres using a national computer system.

“The project was launched in 2004, but following a series of delays and difficulties, was terminated in December 2010 with none of the original objectives achieved and a minimum of £469m being wasted.

“The project was flawed from the outset, as the Department attempted, without sufficient mandatory powers, to impose a single, national approach on locally accountable Fire and Rescue Services who were reluctant to change the way they operated.

“Yet rather than engaging with the Services to persuade them of the project’s merits, the Department excluded them from decisions about the design of the regional control centres and the proposed IT solution, even though these decisions would leave local services with potential long-term costs and residual liabilities to which they had not agreed.

“The Department launched the project too quickly, driven by its wider aims to ensure a better co-ordinated national response to national disasters, such as terrorist attacks, rail crashes or floods. The Department also wanted to encourage and embed regional government in England.

“But it acted without applying basic project approval checks and balances – taking decisions  before a business case, project plan or procurement strategy had been developed and tested amongst Fire Services. The result was hugely unrealistic forecast costs and savings, naïve over-optimism on the deliverability of the IT solution and under- appreciation or mitigation of the risks. The Department demonstrated poor judgement in approving the project and failed to provide appropriate checks and challenge.

“The fundamentals of project management continued to be absent as the project proceeded. So the new fire control centres were constructed and completed whilst there was considerable delay in even awarding the IT contract, let alone developing the essential IT infrastructure.

Consultants made up over half the management team (costing £69m by 2010) but were not managed. The project had convoluted governance arrangements, with a lack of clarity over roles and responsibilities. There was a high turnover of senior managers although none have been held accountable for the failure.  The committee considers this to be an extraordinary failure of leadership. Yet no individuals have been held accountable for the failure and waste associated with this project.”

Comment:

Firecontrol was a politically-motivated project which used  bricks, mortar and IT to try and change the way people worked. The users in the fire service didn’t want a single national approach of nine new regional centres – complete with new hardware and software – just as NHS clinicians, in general, did not want the National Programme for IT [NPfIT]. The Firecontrol regional centres were built anyway and the NPfIT went ahead anyway.

One lesson is that, in the public sector, you cannot engage users who won’t support the scheme. If they want to change, and they want the new IT, they’ll find ways to overcome the technology’s deficiencies. If they don’t want the scheme – and fire personnel did not want Firecontrol – the end-users will be incorrigibly harsh evaluators of what’s delivered, and not delivered.

It’s better to get the support of users, and involve them in the prototype design and test implementations, long before the scheme is finalised. It’s different in the private sector because the support of users is not essential – those who don’t accept business change and the associated IT will be expected to quit.

So what today is the mistake that is being repeated? The Public Accounts Committee touched on it when it said that the Department for Communities and Local Government – which was responsible for Firecontrol –  “failed to provide appropriate checks and challenge”.

During the life of Firecontrol, the Office of Government Commerce carried out “Gateway reviews” which independently assessed progress or otherwise. The reviews  could have provided an early warning of a project that was about to waste hundreds of millions of pounds. But the Gateway review reports were not published. They had a limited internal distribution and, it appears, were ignored.

According to the Public Accounts Committee, a Gateway review in April 2004, near the start of the Firecontrol project, said the scheme was in poor condition overall and at significant risk of failing to deliver.

Why was this Gateway review not published? If it had, Parliament and the media could have held ministers to account – and perhaps have campaigned to stop the project before millions were thrown away.

There was indeed a media campaign in 2004 – and before – to have Gateway reviews published, but ministers – and particularly civil servants – said no.

Now the same thing is happening. The civil service has persuaded the coalition government to carry on Labour’s tradition of keeping Gateway reviews secret. So Parliament and the media will continue to be kept in the dark on whether a major project is going wrong.

By the time details of the reviews are published, perhaps years later in a report of the National Audit Office,  it may be too late to rescue the scheme. By then tens or hundreds of millions may have been wasted. Gateway reviews should be published around the time they are written, not years later.

Ministers do not have to pander to civil servants. They are paid to stand up to them. They receive a premium over the salary of MPs in part to be independent voices – to provide a challenge.

Subservient ministers in the DWP are among those who continue to allow Gateway reviews to remain hidden. If you ask the DWP under the Freedom of Information Act for the release of the Starting Gate report on Universal Credit (which I am told is not the same as a Gateway review report) the DWP will refuse your request. It refused mine.

So we have to accept the word of civil servants that the Universal Credit programme is going well; but haven’t there been enough IT-related disasters in government for all to know that the word of civil servants on whether things are going well needs to be tested independently? The publication of Gateway reviews – and Starting Gate reviews – could help outsiders hold a department to account. It’s time ministers began to realise this.

Are ministers such as Iain Duncan Smith in control of their departments – or are their civil servants in control of them?

Links:

Margaret Hodge on BBC “Today” programme 20/9/11 – “what could go wrong did go wrong” – did PA Consulting get away without blame?

What the NPfIT and Firecontrol have in common.

Firecontrol:  should PA Consulting share some responsibility for what happened?

Mutuals: balancing the benefits of employee ownership and innovation with the risks and rewards

By David Bicknell

The excellent King’s Fund report released yesterday on social enterprise in healthcare made some interesting points on employee ownership and risk in social enterprises and mutuals.

It said: “Evidence from other sectors (the commercial industry, and other public services to a lesser extent) largely focuses on the employee ownership model. In the UK, there is considerable evidence based on the John Lewis Partnership, a major retailer and the UK’s largest employee-owned organisation. However, much of the literature in this field is from the United States, where a significant proportion of the workforce (more than one-fifth) is financially involved in their organisation.

“Literature from the private sector is predominantly supportive of employee ownership, and suggests that there is a positive link between employee ownership and productivity, innovation and job satisfaction. This literature is based on the argument that, by giving employees a stake in their organisation, they will be more engaged and potentially more productive.

“However, Ellins and Ham report evidence that suggests that employee ownership may slow down decision-making and generate a risk-averse culture. A review of the literature by Matrix Evidence also suggests that any productivity gains are not immediate, but become stronger over time.

“The relationship between employee ownership and staff engagement is quite complex. It has been suggested that employee ownership does not automatically lead to greater staff participation, but that staff participation is necessary for the development of a successfuland productive employee- organisation. The literature suggests that the main benefit of employee ownership is greater staff involvement in decision-making, which is associated with a stronger tendency for organisational innovation. However, the direct link between ownership and staff satisfaction is much less clear.

“In commercial industries, employee-owned firms tend to have a lower risk of failure. They are able to create jobs quickly, and are at least as profitable when compared to conventionally structured businesses. Further, a survey by the Social Enterprise Coalition found that social enterprises were twice as confident of future growth compared with small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) (48 per cent as opposed to 24 per cent of SMEs). Additionally, since the recession began, 56 per cent of social enterprises have increased their turnover from the previous year (compared with 28 per cent of SMEs).”

The other week when David Cameron launched the Open Public Services White Paper, he suggested that the Civil Service (and perhaps other
enterprises too) would need to adopt a risk-taking culture.

“The biggest challenge for the Civil Service is to try and adapt to this new culture and also a very difficult thing to do, and an easy thing to say, is that actually civil servants will have to take some risks. We all know that in business it is very easy to award the contract to Price Waterhouse. They’ve done it before, they’re an enormous organisation, they won’t fail. I think there’s a similar tendency within the Civil Service. It’s safe to keep it in house and deal with one of the big providers.

“If we really want to see diversity, choice and competition, we have to take some risks and recognise that sometimes there will be a new dynamic social enterprise that has a great way of tackling poverty or drug abuse or helping prisoners go straight, and we do need to take some risks with those organisations and understand that rather like in business, when you have a failure, that that doesn’t mean that the Civil Service has done a disastrous job.

“In business, we try new things in order to do better, and when they don’t work, we sit back and think, ‘How do we do that better next time?’ We do need a sense of creativity and enterprise in our Civil Service which is clearly there….a change of culture, perhaps a different attitude towards innovation and risk and a sense that that will be a good way of driving performance.”

Interesting then that a blog post in the Harvard Business Review site discusses risk and argues that taking a risk is not immoral – as some might argue – and that “the world is full of people who sit on their high horses disparaging risk and risk takers. They counsel caution in order to gain moral stature, all the while making use of a thousand innovations made possible by the very people and practices they shun.”

It’s not the people who shun risks who are the saints, the author, Dan Pallotta, says. It’s the ones who dare to take them. Good piece – worth a read.

Employment plans for mutuals and social enterprises may face TUPE obligations hurdle

By David Bicknell

What are the employment implications of creating mutuals and social enterprises following the publication of the Open Public Services White Paper?

An article by Asheem Singh of Impetus Trust on the Guardian’s Social Enterprise Network carries these TUPE references which may raise some questions about employment obligations in setting up a mutual or social enterprise.

“We also once worked with an organisation called Speaking Up, who found the requirements of a piece of European legislation called the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations (TUPE), which specifies that public sector staff contracts do not end because their employment structure changes, to be onerous.

“When Speaking Up had won a contract on the basis that they were an innovative, cost effective, nimble social enterprise, they found themselves obliged to take on staff previously from the public sector and both parties found the change in culture difficult. The point is that the change in management process is but one of many puzzles that emerge, as yet unaccounted for, hidden within the government’s plans.”

A standard cloud-based ERP for central govt?

By Tony Collins

 The Cabinet Office has published “Government Shared Services: A Strategic Vision – July 2011″ which suggests a  “cloud- based ERP standard platform which Departments could buy into and from”.

The idea is part of the coalition’s plans to standardise IT systems within government. Standardising could save money – but, as the Public Administration Select Committee warned last week, not if standardising means giving even more control of government IT to a few large, monopolistic suppliers.

The Cabinet Office says that a number of Departments are due to upgrade their supporting IT systems for back office corporate services in the coming years.

 “A co-ordinated management approach by Government will lower the cost of reinvestment whilst enabling a rationalisation of the current landscape,” says the Cabinet Office.

“For example, a number of large Departments who have implemented and operate an Enterprise Resource Platform (ERP) solution need to plan for the expiration of support to the current instance by 2013.

 “This presents an opportunity for UK Government to source a “vertical” solution for a “cloud based” ERP standard platform which Departments could buy into and from.”

On Shared Services, the plan is to 

“reform how Central Government procures and manages consolidated back office corporate services – by establishing an equitable market of a small number of accredited Independent Shared Service Centres and enabling Departments and their ALBs [arm’s-length bodies] to choose between these – in order to drive up quality and reduce costs of these services, in support of Governments cost reduction targets.”

The Cabinet office says that approved shared services centres will “provide outcome based services, using standardised simplified processes, with the expectation to regularly publish performance data against established benchmarks”.

They will be able to make use of different business models – such as mutualisation – to “leverage capability and the financial investment needed to deliver this service and may operate virtually or from a small number of fully integrated delivery centres”.

Government shared services – a strategic vision. July 2011