Give citizens a voice in public services, says Bubb

Prospective Prime Minister Gordon Brown should take action over the Government's rhetoric on giving the public a real voice in public services, according to a new report released today by the Future Services Network alliance of voluntary sector, consumer and business organisations.

The report calls on the Government to reform regulations and to train and empower public service staff to ensure consumers are engaged in services in a way that “leads to real change in services and is not just a box-ticking exercise”.

The FSN, whose members include the chief executives body Acevo, the National Consumer Council and the CBI, has also released a MORI poll in which 85 per cent of the 1,000 people surveyed said they would like more influence in deciding how local public services are delivered. Fifty-five per cent said they wanted a say in decisions about which local services should be prioritised and which should be cut.

At the launch, attended by third sector minister Ed Miliband and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions John Hutton, Acevo chief executive Stephen Bubb said the third sector’s role in public service delivery would always have “more than just a consumer focus”.

 He said: “Public services must also meet citizen and community needs, particularly marginalised and excluded communities which often have poor or non-existent services. Our third sector role is to give a voice to the voiceless. This is not simply a consumer choice agenda; it is about citizen voice as well.”

Before the launch, Ed Mayo, chief executive of the National Consumer Council, said the report set out a radical challenge to government and service providers to “stop talking about consumer engagement and start delivering on it”.

He said: “As the latest polling shows, we are at a tipping point on public service reform. The cost of failing to engage the public will be high.  Trust, once broken, is very hard to repair.”

The report, From rhetoric to reality: engaging users in public services, will be delivered to every minister in Gordon Brown’s new cabinet and to all 410 leaders and chief executives in UK local authorities. It can be downloaded from the Future Service Network’s website.

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