Public sector reform must involve staff and service users

Stephen Smellie
Stephen Smellie

#stuc2017 The STUC has backed UNISON Scotland depute convener Stephen Smellie’s call for a public service reform agenda based on the Christie Commission report principles of integrated service delivery with staff and citizen engagement based on local democracy, not centralisation.

The UNISON Scotland motion noted that, all too often, cuts in funding were the driver for reviewing services as opposed to changes based on improvement and adaptation involving service users and staff – changes which are more likely to be effective and sustainable.

Stephen told delegates: “Everyone has a view on public service reform. Proposals over the past couple of decades have suggested bigger local authorities or smaller local authorities; more health bodies or less; independent providers or shared services; out-sourcing or in-sourcing; charitable trusts or limited liability companies devolution or centralisation.

“Take your pick – but they have probably all been tried and failed and now need reformed – again.

“Usually the problem with reforms is that their original justification is flawed. We are told it is for efficiency. That means cuts and that is the wrong starting point.”

The Jimmy Reid Foundation recently published a report on Public Service Reform which recalled the principles of the Christie Commission.

Stephen continued: “The Christie Commission, welcomed and lauded by all political parties and promptly ignored, argued for reform on an integrated basis that was about improving services with citizen and staff involvement in reforms from the bottom up. It argued for reform that would see public services as an investment in society and not a cost to society.

“Where preventative, early intervention, public services would mean healthier and smarter kids able to engage with higher education and skills to the benefit of the economy.

“Where dealing with social and economic problems, creating jobs and improving communities would put less demands on public services not more.

“Reforms that are aimed just at saving money are just cuts in another guise.”

Stephen called for a public service reform agenda that is based only on improving services, increasing democratic accountability and engages with citizens and staff.

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