Faulty by design

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Foreword

Meg Hillier MP

As the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, my role is to make sure the Committee is

effective at challenging departments on whether they are getting value for money for the

taxpayer.

I am delighted Reform has researched and analysed the changing and varied ways

government is choosing to deliver public services. In a time of restricted resources in the

public sector, innovation and transformation can be welcome approaches to address the

problems of doing more with less. But it is vital that service users remain at the centre of

public services, and new solutions require additional scrutiny to safeguard value for

money.

The Government creates huge challenges for itself by transforming so many services at

once. The Ministry of Justice is changing the ways it delivers rehabilitation, probation,

court interpreters and legal aid as well as reforming the prison estate and court buildings.

The NHS has been restructured and reformed, and has now hit a financial crisis point.

Local health economies are encouraged to find innovative ways to deliver services, such

as commissioning in ever complex arrangements. But public servants can lack the

commercial skills needed to make sound contractual deals that are cost-effective and

deliver high-quality services, as we saw recently with the short-lived disastrous

UnitingCare Partnership in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Devolution creates all manner of opportunities for local communities to enable those with

the best local knowledge to create more responsive, efficient local services. But the

Government is negotiating each deal individually and those at the centre of government

have too often appeared before the Committee unsure and unclear about who is

responsible for what expenditure within new structures such as City Deals. It is crucial

that accountability and transparency are not lost with devolved powers.

Our work in the Public Accounts Committee remains one of the most important platforms

for Parliament’s role in holding the executive to account. We also need the work of think

tanks and academics to provide robust analysis and offer external challenge to

government.

I am sure you will find this paper as insightful and interesting as I have, and I hope the

Government takes note.

Meg Hillier MP, Chair, Public Accounts Committee

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