General News, Articles and Information from The POA North of the Border:


Commision on the Future Delivery of Public Services in Scotland

It was my privilege to be invited to give a presentation on behalf of the POA(S) to the Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services in Scotland.

The Commission, established by the Scottish Government in November 2010, is chaired by Dr Campbell Christie CBE, Former General Secretary of the STUC and current President of Scottish Council for Development and Industry. The Commission’s remit is both wide and comprehensive and reflects the Scottish Government’s vision of providing effective and efficient public services against a background of cuts to the Scottish budget.

In particular it “is asked to:
• Address the role of public services in improving outcomes, what impact they make, and whether this can be done more effectively
• Examine structures, functions and roles, to improve the quality of public service delivery and reduce demand through, for example, early intervention
• Consider the role of a public service ethos, along with cultural change, engaging public sector workers, users and stakeholders”.

The meeting held in Edinburgh was attend by many of the unions operating in the public sector including, (with apologies to those I may have missed) Unison, Prospect, PCS, UCU, Unite, EIS, UCATT and FBU, along with the General and Deputy General Secretary of STUC, this allowed for a broad view to be given to the Commission not only on the breadth of public service but of the particular issues impacting on the delivery of their sector.

From our perspective, the meeting provided the opportunity to thank the STUC and the Commission for remembering that our members provide a vital service to society and are often the `Cinderella of public service.’ I was able to emphasise the importance around the ethos of public service rather than private profit, and whilst recognising there are roles in the delivery of public services suitable for private and voluntary sector involvement there are some areas, such as the delivery of prison services that should be ring-fenced for public sector delivery as a principle.

Transparency and accountability to the taxpayer

This is not simply protectionism, indeed we are one of the few sectors involved who don’t wish to `grow the business` but it is about the need for transparency and accountability to the taxpayer in the delivery of public services. There is nonetheless, an overriding imperative that the market has no rightful place in profiting from the misery of those who continue to populate our prisons often by virtue of the social deprivation and poverty that exists in their communities.

Equally, the introduction and expansion of private sector involvement in public services has often had little to do with providing effective service, rather than it being no more than a cynical ploy to drag down the terms and conditions of those working in the public sector, who appear once again to be the whipping boys of the popular ConDem Government, right wing press and industry barons, as if New Labour wasn’t damaging enough!

The Commission has much to ponder and from the views expressed by the unions on the day as well as through submissions from the STUC it is recognised that their task is not easy but may lead to a set of underpinning principles in which public services can be funded and delivered in the future. With the ever tightening of the Scottish Budget and the pressure to increase capacity as a result of rising prison populations, we can only hope that the principle of Prisons are not for Profit has come across loud and clear.

The Commission is expected to deliver their report to the Scottish Government at the end of June 2011.

Andy Hogg
Assistant Secretary