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White Paper

Open Public Services Website

David Cameron's Speech on Open Public Services - Monday 11 July 2011 -

Prime Minister David Cameron has delivered a speech setting out the principles underpinning the reform and modernisation of public services.

Today is an important day for the coalition and for our country.

The contents of this white paper will be felt in every state school, hospital and prison, by every doctor, teacher, parent, patient and citizen.

I know there are those who thought we might be pulling back or losing heart for the task ahead.

So let me assure you of this: we are as committed to modernising our public services as we have ever been.

I’m not going to make the mistakes of my predecessors…

…blocking reform, wasting opportunities and wasting time.

This is a job that urgently needs to be done, and we are determined to see it through.

Because this is not just about improving our schools and hospitals…

…it’s also a vital part of building a bigger, stronger society that is so central to my vision for our country.

So today I’m going to set out three things: why we need change in our public services…

…what our changes look like…

…and – most importantly – what all this is going to mean for you.

Why we need change

First, why we need change.

I won’t stand here and say our public services are a disaster.

I can’t say that – because I’ve seen how good they can be.

I think of the incredible care my eldest son received through the NHS.

The fantastic school where my elder daughter and son goes, the teachers who inspire them so that every day they come out full of new ideas.

I know how committed our public servants are and how hard they work.

I know what our public services can do and how they are the backbone of this country.

But I know too that the way they have been run for decades…

…old-fashioned, top-down, take-what-you’re-given…

…is just not working for a lot of people.

Public services were centralised with all the right intentions…

…to drive progress through from on high, to keep tabs on how that progress was going with targets and rules and inspections.

But the impact of this has been incredibly damaging.

I meet countless parents frustrated that they can’t find the right state school for their child.

I went out on the beat with a policeman who had to arrest people for the pettiest reasons – even when he thought it was the wrong thing to do – because he had to hit his targets.

I campaigned against the arbitrary closure of special schools, which flew in the face of what so many parents wanted and caused so much pain.

And as a parent I remember the difficulties of trying to get the right wheelchair for my eldest son…

…and still hear too many stories of the right wheelchair arriving after the child has almost outgrown it.

This is the experience of millions of people:

You’re told the meals on wheels lunch won’t be there til 4pm because that’s just how the rota works.

You’re given a hospital appointment half an hour away even though there’s a great clinic just down the road.

Too often it’s felt like us versus an impersonal, bureaucratic machine.

All these frustrations might – just might – have been worth it if they had led to dramatic improvements…

…if they had made our country a fairer place, or given us real value for money.

But the evidence shows that in all these things, the top-down system is failing.

We’re not getting good enough results.

One of the keys to Britain’s success in the future will not just be the performance of our economy, it will be the performance of our public services.

But compare us to other countries, and the evidence is clear: we’re not doing as well as we should be.

In less than ten years we fell almost twenty places in the world rankings on maths and literacy.

In Shanghai the average child is two years ahead of a child here.

And it’s a similar story in healthcare.

If our cancer survival rates were at the European average, you want to know how many lives we’d save each year?

Five thousand.

We’re failing on fairness too.

We should be open and honest about how our public services have created a fairer, more equal country since the Second World War.

But at the same time, we’ve got to acknowledge where public services are failing on fairness.

It is an appalling fact that in England today, people living in the poorest neighbourhoods will, on average, die seven years earlier than those living in the richest.

The poorest children – those who qualify for free school meals – are half as likely to get five good GCSEs as their better-off peers.

The last time they counted, just 40 people who had had free school meals were going to Oxbridge – out of 80,000.

We’ve got a welfare state that doesn’t deliver welfare, that doesn’t get people back into work but traps them in poverty instead.

And we’re not getting value for money either.

Total public spending increased by 57 per cent in real terms from 1997 to 2010.

But on no measure can we claim that things have improved by more than fifty per cent.

Even if we weren’t deeply in debt, we would have a responsibility to do something about this.

But today, as we work to clean up the mess we inherited, the need to get more for less is not just urgent but critical.

So this is the case for change.

If we want to compete in the world, if we want our country to be a fairer place, if we want to get real value for money…

…and above all if we want the decent, reliable public services that make life better for people – then we need to modernise.

There will be no progress if we just stick with the status quo.

What our change is

So let me tell you what our change looks like.

It’s about ending the old big government, top-down way of running public services…

…and bringing in a Big Society approach…

…releasing the grip of state control and putting power in people’s hands.

The old dogma that said Whitehall knows best – it’s gone.

There will be more freedom, more choice and more local control.

Ours is a vision of open public services – and we will make it happen by advancing five key principles.


First, the principle of choice.

Wherever possible we are increasing choice by giving people direct control over the services they use.

Why? First because it’s a good in itself.

You wouldn’t pay for a gym membership and then get told you’re only allowed to use the running machine or only allowed to come in on a Tuesday…

…and neither should you pay your taxes then get told you’ve got to take what you’re given.

I know what some people say: ‘I don’t care about choice – I just want a decent school at the end of my road.’

I understand. And if I could write a government cheque to guarantee that, I would.

But here’s the thing – government can’t just make good schools appear.

You can’t just pass an edict for standards to improve.

You need the right structures in place.

And this is where choice is so vital.

When you have the power to choose where your child goes to school…

…and that choice is backed up by state money…

…schools will start bending over backwards to give you what you want: better discipline, more sports, after-school clubs.

That’s how standards rise in public services – when you get the structures right.

And this isn’t some theory – the evidence is already there.

A study published by the London School of Economics found hospitals in areas with more choice had lower death rates.

So right across our public services we’re extending choice.

Giving patients the freedom to choose the healthcare they want, where they want.

Giving social housing tenants more choice about where they live.

Giving parents of children with disabilities their own personal budgets…

…so it’s them who decides how that money gets spent, not someone who’s never met them and doesn’t know their lives.

Now I know what you might be thinking:

‘We’ve heard politicians talk about choice before and nothing ever changes.’

But something very big and different is happening with this white paper.

For the first time ever we are looking at how we can enshrine a general right to choose in law.

No ifs, no buts, no more get-what-you’re-given…

…this is get what you choose.

A clear, legal right to make the best choice for you.

And if anyone tells you that there are no other options on the table…

…you’re going to have powerful people you can go to to take up your case and fight your corner.

We’re taking the Ombudsmen services and giving them a new role.

We’re asking what powers and profile they need to act as an enforcer of choice in public services, getting what’s best for you.

On top of that I can announce today that Which? – who for years have been advocates for consumers in the private sector…

…will now become your advocates in the public sector too.

In other words, we’re putting you in control like never before.


Of course sometimes, it’s not possible to put that choice directly in people’s hands.

That’s why the second principle is decentralisation.

We’re going to make sure power over public services is held as locally as possible.

Already we’re giving councils a whole load of new powers, and communities new rights to buy assets like village shops and pubs.

We’re going to have powerful mayors in our biggest cities, and Police and Crime Commissioners in every force area.

And today, with this white paper, we go even further.

In its pages you’ll find plans to give neighbourhood or parish councils new powers to run services and really take control of their area.

We want to see democracy on a properly hyper-local scale…

…you and the people you know – the people you wave to on your way to work in the morning – having genuine control over the things that matter to you…

…improvements to your streets, your roads, your local parks.

Most importantly, we’re looking at giving more local councils their own funding streams too.

Already we’ve rolled out community budgets to sixteen areas, putting money into the hands of local people.

And this is just the start – we want to move forward quickly to roll out these community budgets to around 50 more local authorities this year alone.

We haven’t seen power this local for generations.

Other governments pay lip-service to localism – we’re doing it.


Now devolving power doesn’t just apply to those who use public services – it’s about those who work in them too.

That’s why the third principle of modernisation is diversity…

…opening up public services to new providers and new ideas.

This is absolutely critical to what we’re doing.

Just think if the rest of our lives were as un-diverse and restricted as our public services.

Imagine you’re buying a mobile phone.

You go to the shop – only one shop – and there they’re selling one model of phone.

You can guarantee the service wouldn’t be what you’d expect, the quality wouldn’t be great…

…and yet we apply the same tired, old monopolistic thinking across so much of our public services.

These plans put an end to all that.

This white paper says loud and clear that it shouldn’t matter if providers are from the state, private, or voluntary sector – as long as they offer a great service.

Now to those who say the only place good services can come from is the state…

…I say try telling that to the people whose lives have been saved by the RNLI…

…or the people who feel ill late at night and go to an NHS walk-in clinic run by Assura.

Neither of those organisations is run by the central state.

Both of them run an excellent service.

Diversity isn’t a threat – it’s a promise of better public services for everyone.

Just look at what’s happened to education in New Orleans.

After Katrina, they had to start again with their schools system – and they invited a whole load of new providers in to run charter schools.

Now more than half the students in the city go to charter schools – and standards are rising.

Diversity works.

And we feel so strongly about this that with this white paper we’re taking a big step.

From now on, diversity is the default in our public services.

What does that mean?

It means that instead of having to justify why it makes sense to introduce competition…

…as we are now doing with schools and in the NHS…

…the state will have to justify why it makes sense to run a monopoly.

So in national security – yes, there’s a case for the state taking care of things on its own.

In frontline policing and the judiciary – yes, a monopoly makes sense.

Pretty much everywhere else – we want to see diversity.

Now making this change won’t be easy.

Sometimes, a charity or social enterprise trying to come into public services will find strong forces trying to keep them out…

…vested interests, people who want to stick to the status quo.

We need a level playing field so that anyone with a good idea can get involved.

So with this white paper we’re making sure that across public services – in health, social care, education, housing…

…there are organisations whose job it is to make sure new providers can come in.

Let me be clear: if you’re a company who has some innovative ideas on getting offenders off drugs, we want to know what those ideas are.

If you’re a charity providing home help to adults in social care, we want more people to benefit from that.

And if you find that people are holding you back and blocking your way, you’ll be able to go to these organisations to fight your case.

The old narrow, closed, state monopoly is dead.


The fourth principle of open public services is fairness.

It’s no good having services that are excellent for a few and unattainable for the many.

It’s no achievement raising standards if you still leave the poorest behind.

That’s why across the board we’re bringing in new help for those who need it.

A pupil premium to get disadvantaged children into the best schools not the worst.

A National Scholarship Programme to help talented young people into university.

A Health Premium to reward progress for improving health in the poorest areas.

Community organisers to go into the most deprived neighbourhoods, raise people’s aspirations and make a difference.

The people who have been most let down by top-down public services are going to be lifted up.

And let me make one other point on fairness here.

It astonishes me that it’s those who call themselves progressive, who say they’re on the side of the poorest, who are the most anti-opening up public services.

It’s the current system that is incredibly unfair.

People with money can get friendly with their local GP at a dinner party, maybe see them out of hours if there’s an emergency.

They can move to a different part of town if the schools are better there.

In this world of restricted choice and freedom it’s the poorest who lose out.

Well, these plans are about creating those opportunities for everyone.

On this I am determined: as we push forward with modernising public services, no one will be left behind.


The fifth and final principle is accountability.

All services need to be accountable to the people who use them and the taxpayers who pay for them.

Sounds obvious doesn’t it?

But with the old top-down model it seemed as if no one had to answer for anything.

Ministers could spend your money like water behind closed doors.

Useless providers were given big cheques just for laying on a service, regardless of whether that service was good or not.

It was a bit like giving a child an A grade just for sitting through an exam – even if they’ve never written anything down.

It doesn’t make sense.

In every other part of life, reward follows effort and achievement.

People are held accountable for their decisions.

And so it should be in our public services.

One of the biggest levers of accountability we’re bringing in is payment by results.

If providers have good ideas to get people off alcohol or drugs, or get them back into work for the long-term, we’ll say great, come on in…

…but you’re paid according to the outcomes you achieve.

Show us the results and we’ll show you the money.

Another really powerful tool we’re using is transparency.

We’re putting stacks of information about public services online…

…from the MRSA infection rates in your local hospital to the science exam results in your local school to crime maps of your streets.

This is going to have a profound impact.

Arming you with the information to make the right choices.

Helping us save money.

And most importantly, driving up standards.

Five years ago, it was made far easier for the public to access, understand and use data on survival rates following heart surgery.

And guess what happened?

Survival rose dramatically.

This shouldn’t surprise us.

Our doctors, teachers and police officers are passionate about driving up performance and being the best.

If they see things being done better and differently elsewhere, they’re going to race to improve themselves.

So this is how accountability, like choice, diversity and decentralising power, is going to make our public services better.

This isn’t about ideology. It’s about the best way to get things done.

What this will mean for you

So that, broadly, is what our changes look like.

But I know that people might be thinking – never mind the productivity graphs and the different sorts of provision, what does this all actually mean for me and my life?

Let me tell you.

Open public services are going to mean you in control.

No more take what you’re given.

No more like-it-or-lump-it.

Say you’ve got a bad back.

In the old way of doing things, you’d go along to doctor who might send you to a hospital to have a scan and operation.

Now, you can look online and check the hospital out.

If you’re not happy with the performance there, you can choose a different hospital…

…an NHS one or one run independently – anywhere that’s registered as safe and charges the NHS going rate.

Right across public services we’re putting you in charge like never before.

And because we’re doing that, open public services are going to mean, quite simply, more of what you want.

More rigour and crunchy subjects in schools.

More really friendly customer service in hospitals and clinics.

More on-the-ground policing from your local force.

And it’s going to mean less of what you don’t want.

Less bureaucracy. Less officialdom.

Less hanging on hold for hours waiting for someone else to make a decision about your life.

And most profoundly, open public services are going to mean an end to an old divide in our country.

It won’t just be the rich who get the best services.

Access to excellent hospitals and schools not the privilege of a few…

…but the entitlement of everyone.

In other words, the plans in this white paper are the start of a better, fairer country.


I want to end today by saying this.

Britain has a proud record of pioneering public services.

We led the way on universal education.

We broke new ground on universal healthcare.

We made provisions for the poorest in our society.

We showed the world that in a civilised country, you create opportunities for those who aren’t born with them.

You make safety nets for those who need them.

We have led the way – and we can lead the way again.

In modernising public services…

…in up-dating them.

…in making them the envy of the world.

Creating universal public services was one of the great achievements of the 20th century.

Renewing those services is one of our great challenges in the 21st – and this government is determined to meet it.

Oliver Letwin's Commons statement on the Open Public Services White Paper. 11 July 2011

Mr Speaker, today I am laying before Parliament the Open Public Services White Paper.

There couldn’t be a more important issue.

Public services save lives. They rescue people from disease and ignorance. They protect people from crime and poverty.

Much of what is done by our public services is fantastic – amongst the best in the world.

But we can do even better.

This Government has a vision – set out in this White Paper – about how we can do better.

The central point is this.

When public services aren’t up to scratch, those who are well off can pay for substitutes.

But for those who are not well off, there is no opportunity to pay for substitutes.

So we need to give everybody the same choice in, and the same power over, the services they receive that well off people already have.

This White Paper sets out how we are going about the business of putting that vision of choice and power for all into practice.

Our principles are clear. They are:
1.Choice - wherever possible we will increase choice
2.Decentralisation – power will be decentralised to the lowest appropriate level
3.Diversity – public services will be open to a range of providers
4.Fair access –we will ensure that there is fair access and fair funding for all
5.Accountability –services will be accountable to users and taxpayers.

Mr Speaker, let me give you some examples of how these principles will apply in specific public services that cater for specific individuals.

First, we are going to ensure that every adult receiving social care has an individual, personal budget by 2013, and we are moving towards personal budgets in chronic health care, for children with special needs, and in housing for vulnerable people.

This means more choice and power for people who need those services: they will be able to choose what the money is spent on.

Second, we are making funding follow the pupil in schools, the student in further education, the child in childcare and the patient in the NHS.

This means more choice and power for people who need those services: they will be able to choose where the money is spent.

Third, we are providing fair access so that, for example, a pupil premium payment follows pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, and a health premium is paid to local authorities who achieve the greatest improvements in public health for people in the least healthy parts of the country. We attach huge importance to this agenda. We want genuine equality of opportunity and genuine social mobility.

Fourth, we are providing open access to data so that people can make informed choices about the services they use:
•crime maps, so people can see whether the local police are preventing crime in their street
•health outcomes, so people can see which hospitals and which GPs achieve the best results
•standardised satisfaction data for all public services – so people can see exactly which service providers are providing the quality of service people want
•open, real-time data on road conditions, speeds and accidents along our motorways, so people can make informed choices.

Fifth, we will be providing a new system of redress, through beefed up powers of Ombudsmen to step in where the choice to which people have a right is denied.

But we are going further than this.

We are not only concerned about increased choice and increased power for individuals.

We are also determined to increase choice and power for communities, so that they can determine how money is spent on their communal public services.

We will do this:
•by making it far easier for communities to take over and run public assets and assets of community value
•by giving communities the right to build houses for their own young people
•by giving parish councils and community groups the right to challenge, enabling them to take over local services, and making it easier for people to form neighbourhood councils where there are none at present
•by giving neighbourhoods vastly more power to determine their own neighbourhood planning
•by giving neighbourhoods the ability to challenge the local police at beat meetings informed by crime maps – and remember, the people at these meetings will each be electors of the local police Commissioner.

We recognise of course, that some services will inevitably continue to be commissioned centrally, or by various levels of local government.

Here too, we are aiming at decentralisation, diversity and accountability.

The White Paper sets out the way we will use payment by results to transform:
•welfare to work
•the rehabilitation of offenders
•drug and alcohol recovery
•help for children in the foundation years
•support for vulnerable adults.

In all of these areas, a diverse range of providers will be given a huge incentive to provide the social gains our society so desperately needs – by being rewarded for getting people into work, out of crime, off drugs and alcohol, and into the opportunities most of us take for granted.

To strengthen accountability, the White Paper also sets out the most radical programme of transparency for government and the public sector anywhere in the world.

To unlock innovation, the White Paper commits us to diversity of provision, removing barriers to entry, stimulating entry by new types of provider, and unlocking new sources of capital.

To ensure that public sector providers can hold their own on a level playing field, the White Paper sets out measures to liberate public sector bodies from red tape.

To encourage employee ownership within the public services, the White Paper sets out the measures we are taking to promote mutualisation and employee cooperatives.

To ensure that service continues if particular service-providers fail, the White Paper sets out the principles for continuity regimes we are establishing, service by service.

Mr Speaker, in the last 13 months, this Government has done more to increase choice and power for those served by our public services than the Party opposite achieved in 13 years.

This White Paper describes the comprehensive, consistent, coherent approach we are taking to keep our public services moving in the direction of increased choice and power for service-users – so that we can provide access to excellence for all.

That is the aim of this White Paper.

Why open public services?

The Open Public Services White Paper sets out our vision for improving public services by encouraging innovation and giving individuals and communities more choice and control.

This website explains why we need to modernise, what Open Public Services will look like and what our plans mean for members of the public, public sector professionals, voluntary groups and businesses.

We want to hear from people in all these groups, and give you the opportunity to shape the future of our public services — to comment, simply go to the home page and click on the button that applies to you.

Your input will feed into a listening exercise that will continue throughout the summer, including a series of Open Public Services events. This will become part of an ongoing national dialogue about improving public services.

What you can expect from us

You have a right to expect the best public services, no matter who you are or where you live. That’s what Open Public Services is about. It’s a new approach to improving public services by giving people more choice and control over the services they use and opening public services up to a range of providers.

Open Public Services is based on five clear principles:

Providing more choice

We know that people want to have more of a say in how their services are run. We will increase your choices by giving you direct control over the services you use. Giving patients the right to choose which hospital they get treated in; helping parents choose where their child goes to school; rolling out personal budgets across health and social care, giving people the choice between private or tenant housing.
Choice is of limited value if people don’t have the ability to use it, or the services available aren’t of a high standard. So this shift in power to individuals will not mean that they are on their own because. Elected and unelected consumer and citizen champions will take a prominent role in scrutinising providers, supporting the most vulnerable and pushing for better quality.

Shifting power from the centre

We will make sure that services are delivered at the most local level possible, so we’ll enable communities to come together and take over their services. For example there will be new rights for communities and neighbourhood councils to play a greater role in their local service provision.

Ensuring diversity

We will open services to a range of providers who can compete to provide the quality of service that we require. Independent providers are already offering excellent services in many areas, such as helping ex-offenders and providing home care to the elderly. We will expand this, opening up to new providers from the public, voluntary or private sectors, who want to innovate, improve quality and deliver better services for everyone.

Guaranteeing fair access

We will ensure that a consistent and excellent service is delivered for all, by shifting power to individuals and communities. We’ll also provide extra help to those who have previously been left behind, so that everyone can compete on an equal playing field.

Delivering accountability

We promise that all services will be accountable to the people who use them and the taxpayers who pay for them, resulting in a better quality provision. And this principle of accountability will extend to all organisations who receive public funding — whether they commission services from others or directly provide them.

In short, we will improve the delivery of public services for individuals and communities, while providing better opportunities for public service professionals so that they can improve the quality of the services they provide.



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References: See what The Swedish Fire Service, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, Merseyside Fire and Rescue, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Fire Services, Swedish MSB and Tom Carroll (Past president of CFOA ) and others have said.

Fitting-in can provide a cultural audit that not only feeds back on attitudes in your service it also provides an outside view on how your organisation is thinking at all levels that is supported by recommendations for focussing change.This is what Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service had to say about the Ethos research, communications and training project:

"The Service are delighted with the research and reports produced by "Fitting-in. We believe that your original hypothesis and work undertaken in Merseyside has resulted in a ground breaking piece of work that can only serve to inform the wider fire and rescue communities." 

For further information or just to talk about what fitting-in can provide ring Dr Dave Baigent (FIFireE) 07802 495 329 or email

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