News & Views
Public Administration Select Committee report highlights gaps in sector commissioning model
The Public Administration Select Committee (PASC), appointed by the House of Commons to examine the reports of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration and the Health Service Commissioner for England, published its first ever report on the third sector on 9 July – Public Services and the Third Sector: Rhetoric and Reality...
With a gestation of 18 months and over 50 written responses in the call for evidence, as well as oral evidence from stakeholders ranging from front-line third sector organisations, the OTS, trade unions to the CBI, this is a highly significant piece of analysis.
The volume of public services commissioned by the government from charities, other not-for-profit organisations and social enterprises was one of the main drivers for the PASC choosing to investigate this particular area of policy: ‘The breadth of the sector presents a real challenge for policymakers looking to design the relationship between the sector, citizens and the State…the emergence of the Office of the Third Sector, bringing together responsibilities then held in the Home Office and Department for Trade and Industry, has both crystallised the development of Government policy and encouraged us to engage with that process of policy development.’ Key findings are:
- There is insufficient evidence to support the Government’s claim that the third sector provides public services in distinctive ways.
- There is a gap between the rhetoric of ‘transformation of services’ and the reality that the sector’s involvement is still on a small scale.
- ‘Intelligent commissioning’ is the key to discovering if the sector has something truly distinctive to offer.
TonyWright MP, committee chair, explained: ‘If the users of a service particularly value local knowledge, then you don’t want to package the contract so that only large national organisations can compete. Commissioning has to be about more than realising cost savings through competition. I think the government has got that message.What is needed now is to translate that message into action.’
A Cabinet Office spokesman confirmed that while a full response to the report would be made ‘in due course’, the Government ‘welcomes the report, and its recognition of the capacity for the third sector to deliver excellent and innovative public services’ and that it endorses the report’s central proposition that ‘intelligent commissioning is essential’, pointing out it is already ‘training 3,000 commissioners to ensure they are able to get the best out of the third sector’.
www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/ public_administration_select_committee/ pasccommissioning.cfm