Smarter, cheaper government?

In a major speech prior to the budget Gordon Brown has outlined plans for a ‘third generation’ of public services tailored to and informed by their users, with the third sector and wider civic society playing a crucial role in shaping and delivering services, reports Third Sector Online.

The PM’s speech marks the publication of a major policy document for radical government reform, Putting the frontline first: smarter Government.

As well as a major cull of quangos and other cost-saving measures to reduce the cost of public borrowing, the action plan means “a bigger role for groups of residents, parents and patients, and third sector providers in shaping services in their local communities”.

Amongst the specific actions identified for strengthening civic society and third sector involvement are:

  • Production of a regularly updated Civic Health Index from early 2010 to enable people to assess how well civic society is faring and how it can be enabled to thrive.
  • Piloting Social Impact Bonds as a new way of funding the third sector to provide services. Social Impact Bonds will reward social investors for work which reduces future social costs.
  • Finalising the model for the Investment Wholesale Bank, which has been subject to discussion/consultation for over a year now.
  • Strengthening support for community asset transfer and ownership by promoting wider use of community shares from early 2010.
  • Develop criteria on social assets by Budget 2010, to determine whether alternative delivery structures such as co-operatives or third sector entities would offer the greatest value for public assets.
  • Provide financial support to innovative programmes that bring public services together with civic society — this includes the Young Foundation pilot programme of social entrepreneurs in residence in PCTs and an ‘innovation exchange’ to help the most innovative third sector organisations work more closely with public service commissioners.

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