Forum seeks customers' views of public services

Tania Mason

Acevo and the National Consumer Council have joined forces with the CBI to create a consumer forum that they hope will force the Government to listen to customers' views on public services.

The groups intend that the Future Services Network will grow to emulate the consumer federations of America and Australia, which have amassed considerable lobbying power in those countries.

Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, said that in the debate around reform of public services in the UK, the voice of the "producer" - the public servants and the organisations that employ them - dominates the agenda and the customer is barely heard.

"The public feels disconnected from this debate on how services are run," Bubb said. "They need to put the interests of the citizen back at the heart of what they do."

The network will operate through a website, www. futureservicesnetwork.org, on which individuals and groups can pledge support for a set of principles concerning public service reform. These include greater consumer choice, motivated staff and a bigger role for the voluntary and private sectors.

The launch of the network is being promoted through a national press advertising campaign, funded by the three organisations.

Bubb added: "This is not just about Acevo arguing for more service delivery - it's about the nature of the public sector reconnecting with citizens.

A lot of charities were set up because they were fed up with the service they were getting from the public sector.

"We are not delivering services because we think we can expand our organisations, but because we think we can provide a better service."

He said the initial results of the campaign would feed into the third sector summit with Tony Blair in June.

- See Finance News, page 9.

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