Index . Briefings Home
. Revitalise Our Services Index
to Revitalise Scotland's Public Services
Capacity and Innovation
In April 2003 UNISON Scotland launched its manifesto
for Scotland's public services, Revitalise our Public Services.
The centrepiece of that manifesto was our principles for public
service renewal. In this series of briefings we expand on these
principles setting out our positive agenda for the revitalisation
of Scotland's essential public services.
Why Capacity and Innovation?
Revitalising public services requires innovation
so new ideas and improvements to the way services meet the needs
of people are developed. The public service organisation (PSO)
must also have the capacity to allow innovation to occur, otherwise
no amount of innovative thought will actually translate into better
services at the frontline. Innovation requires challenging the
assumption that public services are based on a "one size
fits all" approach. This process requires an element of risk
taking, so it is necessary to end the blame culture to enable
innovation to take place without recrimination.
Capacity building is about creating resources
that are flexible and sufficient to allow for the development
of new services and new methods of delivery.
People : Staff capacity issues are
an essential part of the innovation equation. Innovation requires
a management culture that is open, enthusiastic and encourages
participation at all levels. Staff need to feel valued and confident
to contribute and participate in decision making. This is recognised
in the Executive's Partnership Agreement statement: "we want
frontline staff to be empowered". The training and development
proposals in the partnership agreement are a key element and require
to be adequately resourced.
Structures: Structural capacity issues
need to be developed in terms of providing resources (eg ICT,
equipment, buildings), implementing new legal frameworks, or democratic
structures as appropriate. The Power of Well Being is addressing
structural capacity in local government, and should give councils
opportunities to act in the best interests of their local communities
removing previous restrictions. There is more to do in creating
the physical, social and ideological capacity to allow innovation
throughout public services. Developing a culture where staff are
encouraged and valued is crucial.
Funding: PPP/PFI does not provide the
flexibility and capacity for innovation so is not able to revitalise
and modernise public services effectively. PFI failures are well
publicised. PFI costs more, lacks flexibility, undermines accountability
and transparency and has created a two tier workforce exploiting
mainly low paid women workers. The PPP Staffing Protocol has to
an extent addressed these issues. But PFIs divide teams, dent
staff morale, and do not allow for staff development and training
that is required for innovation. For effective reform public services
have to be funded from sources which do not conflict with developing
capacity and innovation, nor with the principles of accountability,
participation, quality and fairness.
Some of the changes require amendments to Treasury
rules and the reform of off-balance sheet incentives inherent
in the current block grant system and Departmental Expenditure
Limits. UNISON welcomes progress made in Scotland including the
removal of Section 94 capital borrowing restrictions, and proposals
to extend this to social housing. However, capital grants need
to be provided on a genuine level playing field basis to give
PSOs real choice between funding sources.
Innovating in public services is the way we modernise
and revitalise public services to improve service delivery and
meet the needs of service users.
Service Provision The three elements
of the Local Government Act Best Value, the Power to Advance
Well Being, and Community Planning are levers that should
be used to drive forward innovation in service provision. Best
Value should be about providing quality services, ensuring fair
employment, accountability and equality. It involves a sharing
of best practice between PSOs ensuring that effective ways of
working are shared and promoted. Community Planning has the potential
to innovate as stakeholders develop new ways to meet the needs
of local communities. To be successful this has to be open and
democratic. In health, proposals to abolish Trusts the remaining
vestiges of the internal market should assist service innovation
if the process successfully harnesses ideas of local communities
and frontline staff.
UNISON members are already involved in delivering
a range of innovative services. Examples include free swimming
for under 18s and over 60s, free fruit in schools, waste recycling
schemes, childcare and nursery provision, lifelong learning via
workplace-based projects, and Joint Future.
Information Sources To innovate PSOs
need to draw on information from a range of sources, sharing best
practice and new ideas. By encouraging staff and user involvement
and a culture of cooperation rather than excessive use of expensive
private consultants. Ideas from other sectors are there and should
be drawn upon to innovate and revitalise.
Administrative Systems and Information and Communications
PSO administration has to be flexible and responsive
to meet changing needs, and the 21st Century Government
agenda can play its part in developing capacity and innovation.
Public services have to embrace ICT changes, but to do so resources
and training have to be provided at all levels. Funding for new
ICT is needed to avoid the social exclusion of people who are
unable to participate and use services. Staff have to be trained
to develop and facilitate ICT services, whilst acknowledging that
some people will want to maintain contact with a "real person".
Whilst call centre technologies have a role the
Executive's inadequate guidelines on this issue are a good example
of what happens when policy is developed without involving all
the key stakeholders.
Developing capacity and innovation is the way
forward to revitalise Scotland's public services. Without the
people, structures and funding capacity innovation will fail to
develop. So it is imperative that we develop capacity to enable
innovation to flourish to revitalise public services in Scotland.
Dave Watson -
@ The P&I Team
14 West Campbell St
Tel 0845 355 0845
Fax 0141-307 2572