The Christie Commission - 21st Century Outcomes


The Christie Commission has just published its eagerly awaited report on our public sector landscape. There is obviously no easy solution to the challenge of meeting individual and community needs or the Commission would have found it. And although it would be easy to be disappointed by what may appear to be a well written statement of the obvious, the evidence based collation of the underlying issues and challenges should not be under-estimated. That is the sound starting point for all public policy change.

This report has the potential to herald in the most significant philosophical and cultural change in public administration since the introduction of the Welfare State. But that depends on the willingness of the public and private sectors to drive through the recommendations to produce a 21st century outcome.

The Commission believes that our public services are in need of “urgent and sustained reform to meet unprecedented challenges”. In mapping out a way forward for reform, the Commission identified a series of priorities and recommendations such as:

design services with, and for, people and communities;
utilising all available resources in all sectors;
understanding the needs, talents and resources of individuals and communities;
integration of services to deliver results;
prioritising preventative measures - early intervention;
targeting the underlying causes of deprivation;
tightening public service oversight and accountability;
driving reform based on outcomes, improved performance and cost reduction; and
better long term strategic planning, including greater transparency around major budget decisions like universal entitlements.

These priorities are all, directly or indirectly, outcome focussed. They signify a move away from the paternalistic approach that has underpinned public services in modern times. An approach that became embedded in organisational structures, public policy and law, public finance, professionalism and public service scope.

The Christie vision embraces a "bottom up" approach based on "the reality of delivering front line services". It wants to tackle an unduly cluttered and fragmented public service landscape. It will be built around individual and community engagement with a strong flavour of localism.

How are we to achieve this vision?

The Commission recommends:

new statutory powers and duties common to all public service bodies focussed on outcomes with a presumption in favour of preventative action and tackling inequalities;
statutory provisions to embed community participation in the design and delivery of services;
a new concordat between Scottish Government and local Government to develop joined up services backed by funding arrangements requiring integration;
new inter-agency training to reduce silo mentalities, drive forward service integration and build a common public sector ethos;
a stronger remit to Audit Scotland to improve performance and save money across all public service organisations merging functions of the Auditor General and the Accounts Commission;
consistent commissioning and procurement standards to achieve competitive neutrality between suppliers of services; and
review specific public services in terms of the difference they make to people’s lives.

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