Research & Publications

Efficiency by design – how public bodies are rising to the funding challenge

January 14 2014

Efficiency by design – how public bodies are rising to the funding challenge

Efficiency by Design: stories of best practice in public bodies, a new report published today by the Public Chairs’ Forum (PCF) and Cabinet Office, shines a light on the innovative ways in which people working in public bodies have improved the efficiency of their organisations’ operations. This practical guide contains case studies which demonstrate how leaders and staff of public bodies have responded positively to the challenge to deliver better public services at lower cost.

Since the Coalition Government’s announcement to reform public bodies in October 2010, Ministers have spoken of the scale of funding cuts and the resulting administrative savings. Efficiency by Design looks beyond the headline numbers and focuses on how these savings are being achieved.

The PCF and Cabinet Office have worked closely with Chairs and Chief Executives to uncover examples of best practice. Five key themes emerged from their research, which was conducted with the Institute for Government: 

·    Working differently.
·    Working in partnership.
·    Improving procurement.
·    Less property, smarter working.
·    ‘Digital by default’.


Chris Banks CBE, Chair of the Public Chairs’ Forum said:

“In recent years, we have seen many different examples of public bodies rising to the funding challenge to deliver better public services at lower cost. Through this report, we have captured some of this good work so that organisations can learn from each other about new ways to improve the efficiency of their operations.

“Our hope is that by sharing best practice in this way, everyone working in public bodies will share in the acknowledgement of what has already been achieved and be encouraged to continue to find ways of working more efficiently. The continuing downward pressure in funding makes improving efficiency an essential part of everyday life in public bodies.”


Nick Hurd MP, Minister for Civil Society said:

“Government has to work more efficiently to adjust to the new economic reality that we face and provide public services that are effective and fully accountable. Public bodies have risen to this challenge and the joint PCF/Cabinet Office report highlights examples of practical and innovative ways in which they are achieving efficiencies and improving performance.

“Together, we are implementing the biggest reform of public bodies for a generation. We expect this to reduce the administrative cost of public bodies by at least £2.6 billion by 2015. At the same time we are increasing accountability, improving public services, and delivering a crucial part of the wider reforms to the Civil Service.”

Examples of efficiency in the report include:

·  Companies House who have streamlined their processes enabling them to half customer turnaround time.
·  Natural England, who have worked in partnership with the Forestry Commission and the Environment Agency to save costs. The co-hosting datasets alone will avoid costs of approximately £0.5 million.
· The National Archives, who have improved their procurement and secured a net saving of £0.4 million per annum.
·  The Electoral Commission, who have implemented a full accommodation review, achieving a 40% reduction in accommodation costs.
·  The Coal Authority, whose digital strategy has improved online services. They have also in-sourced their IT service support which alone will save £0.8million per annum.

Notes to editors:

The Public Chairs’ Forum (PCF) exists to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the delivery of public services in the United Kingdom. It is a member led, exclusive information sharing and networking resource for chairs of public bodies.

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PRESS NOTICE:  What public leaders can learn from the experience of LSIS

July 29 2013

PRESS NOTICE:  What public leaders can learn from the experience of LSIS

The Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) will close its doors on 31 July 2013, but important lessons it has learnt about leadership, management and governance should not be forgotten, according to a new report by the Public Chairs’ Forum (PCF).

Lessons for leadership – the experience of LSIS considers what the wider public sector can learn from the experiences of LSIS. Many of the challenges facing the Further Education (FE) sector reflect changes taking place across government; this report draws parallels between both and offers lessons for leadership that are of relevance to all public leaders today.

Key points from the report:

•      The traditional view of the ‘heroic’ leader has lost relevance for public sector leaders. Instead, leadership and governance should be more blended – with focus both on setting strategic direction and on empowering middle managers.

•    Cuts to public spending and changes in public policy mean that the skillset necessary for public sector leaders needs to be more geared towards entrepreneurialism, flexibility and creativity.

•      Good governance requires that board and their Chairs understand their role vis-à-vis the organisation’s Chief Executive – constructively challenging and ensuring the organisation has a clear strategy rather than only auditing or steering.

•      The LSIS dual governance model of a board to ensure ‘things are done right’ and a council to ensure ‘the right things are done’ has relevance to individual organisations and to sectors seeking to improve.

Speaking about the report, Chris Banks CBE, Chair of the PCF said:

“Our report builds on other reviews of LSIS’s legacy and offers some thought provoking lessons that really chime with the challenges that public leaders are facing at the moment. Some interesting themes have been identified that have important implications for chairs, chief executives and boards and the PCF will be working with chairs of public bodies to take these into account.”

Dame Ruth Silver, Chair of LSIS, said:

‘I am really pleased to see the publication by the Public Chairs’ Forum of this excellent report. It contains some important lessons about leadership, management and governance from LSIS and Further Education, which are highly relevant to the public sector. I hope it proves useful in what is a very challenging time for leaders.’

This report builds on The leadership legacy of LSIS: a reflection, which reflects on the demand for effective leadership across the further education and skills sector and the impact LSIS has had in creating a leadership cadre that meets this demand.

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Relationship Web – improving ALB / Departmental relationships

January 29 2013

Relationship Web – improving ALB / Departmental relationships

Relationship Web is a two way self-assessment tool. This characteristic marks it out from many other relationship surveys because instead of simply reflecting on your own perceptions of the relationship, you are able to gain an insight into how the arm’s-length body (ALB) or sponsoring department that you are working with views the relationship too.

In It takes two, our framework for effective relations produced jointly with the Institute for Government last year, we identified five key ‘buckets’ for effectiveness in ALB / Department relationships: accountabilities; strategic approach; financial and performance management; communication and engagement; and relationship management. Relationship Web uses the diagnostic questions set out in the framework and groups them around these same five areas.

Since its launch, some key Departments and ALBs have got on board and have started using Relationship Web. These include Ministry of Justice, DCLG, Defra and their public bodies. This is really positive progress, but clearly, there are many more Departments and ALBs who could benefit from taking part. We want to ensure that the tool reaches its potential and helps as many different Departments and ALBs as possible. So if you work for an ALB or Department and are yet to use the tool, please take a few minutes of your time to register for Relationship Web and get started. The more people that use Relationship Web, the greater the impact it can have and the greater improvements will be.

To request access, please email Amy Noonan (amy.noonan@publicchairsforum.org.uk).

How it works

When completing the exercise, you will be asked to state how strongly you agree with each statement using a seven point scale. 

See below for an example of a statement that appears in the accountabilities section:

Q5 There is an agreed common understanding of the role of the chair and chief executive that is shared at all levels of the department and the ALB.

  1   2     3     4     5     6       7

Once complete, your results are plotted on to a ‘spider’s web’ – the further away from the centre your responses, the more effective your relationship; the idea being to stretch the web over time to improve your performance.

Individual ALBs and Departments can then compare results to see how each party views their relationship. Rather than being the solution to any issues in the relationship, the exercise should act as a useful conversation starter between Department and ALB.

Please visit the research page on our website for more comprehensive information on how the tool works, including standard user and super user access.

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Relationship Web

relationshipweb application

Relationship Web is a diagnostic self-assessment tool, for both ALBs and Departments to use to test the state of the relationship. It is based on the diagnostic questions within the joint PCF and Institute for Government framework for effective relations and allows Departments and ALBs to identify strengths and weaknesses in their own relationships. The diagnostic statements are divided into five key areas for effectiveness, as identified in ‘It takes two’: accountabilities; strategic approach; financial and performance management; communication and engagement; and relationship management.

After completing the exercise, your results are then plotted on to a 'spider’s web' – the further away from the centre your responses, the more effective your relationship; the idea being to stretch the web over time to improve your performance. You will then be able to download a PDF version of the 'spider’s web' and save this on your computer. There will be an opportunity for individual ALBs and Departments to compare results to see how each party views their relationship. Rather than being the solution to any issues in the relationship, we hope that this exercise will act as a useful conversation starter between Department and ALB.

Cabinet Office Checklist

checklist application

PUBLIC CHAIRS' FORUM WEB APPLICATION

checklist btn

Cabinet Office have recently produced a checklist to help Arms Length Bodies and Departments to ensure that the most important aspects of managing transitions are considered. Inevitably, no one transition is identical to another one and depending on the type of transition you are involved in, there will be certain things within the checklist that don't apply to the specific circumstances of your transition.

So, rather than having to explore which parts are relevant to your circumstances, the Public Chairs' Forum has designed an application that will do this for you. By answering some simple questions about your transition, the application will produce a customised report and checklist, ensuring you focus on the right issues at the right time. We hope that the combination of the checklist and application will help to bring clarity, focus and practical solutions to an often complex process. Download your personalised report here.