Only useful information please
I have a big sense of déjà vu about the government’s claim that it will bring new openness to public services. That it will somehow create a new “citizen accountability” on the part of schools, hospitals, councils etc. I can’t help but feel that it’s been done before and that some of the new proposals are more about being seen to do something rather than actions that will deliver great benefits to anyone.
In the late 1980s I worked on the original “Citizen’s Charter”. It was introduced by York City Council and the name was imitated (with partial success) by John Major’s government, The York model set out the standards and specifics of what the council would do, its responsibilities and, in succeeding annual editions, how far it had met its targets or milestones. Where it hadn’t succeeded it explained why, and what it was going to do about it. The Charter was backed up by a series of Customer Contracts that described in detail the specifics of what, when, and how services such as Street Cleaning, Refuse Collection, Swimming Pools, Road Repairs and many others would be provided. The costs of services were set out and it was a wide-ranging approach to make public service more transparent and accountable.
As such it was a success. Residents expressed their support for this set of initiatives in opinion polls, at public meetings, and, probably, at the ballot box. And as a communications exercise it was a success too. The flow of information clearly resonated with the public. The local experience was borne out by national surveys carried out by MORI which showed that the more citizens felt informed as to what their council was doing, and why, the greater their satisfaction with it. Effective communications pays dividends.
What isn’t effective, however, and what seems to be scraping around for something to publish, are ideas like identifying teachers’ salaries. How does that help parents? If a school says that 10% of its teachers are paid between £25000 and £35000, but another’s figure is 20%, how does it affect assessment of the performance, financial or otherwise? There may be all sorts of reasons for the disparity but surely the key point at issue is the effectiveness of teaching and learning? It is up to the governors and headteacher to monitor and decide upon salary costs as part of the budget. There’s a possible case for publishing this overall figure but anything else? Seems like a clumsy attempt to point fingers at public service wages.
Transparency. Yes. Relevant and useful information. Yes. Good communications. Definitely. Facts and figures for the sake of them. Waste of time and diminishing resources.
Posted on: 10th November 2010 in
I’ve nearly changed my opinion about Milton Keynes. To be more accurate it was nearly changed for me. And how it happened is a lesson in communications.
Recently I’ve been working with the excellent Stantonbury Campus in the “town”. A school that is on a sharp upward curve, and much more than a school too with a big range of community facilities and activities. Anyway, as many people will know, Milton Keynes can be challenging for visitors to get their bearings. So, in talking about catchment areas and the like, it was interesting to hear talk of “north of the city” and “in the west of the city”. Had I missed the announcement that it was now the City of Milton Keynes? I recalled that it had bid for city status but thought that it didn’t get the status.Read more ...