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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Laird

Giving local leaders the ‘trust to try things out’ – why the government is right to back

Updated: Apr 6, 2021

The General Election already feels like a distant memory. In the end the debate around the economy dominated the campaign but, whatever the result had been, it was always going to mean continued restraints on public expenditure.

Budget cuts have weighed heaviest on local government. Between 2009/10 and 2014/15 overall spending by England’s local authorities was slashed by a fifth, more than twice the rate of the rest of the UK public sector. The NHS has fared better on paper, although the ever-increasing demand for services means it finds itself at a similar point.

To meet these challenges, there is no choice but to do things differently. Councils and NHS Trusts need to find smarter and cheaper approaches to providing services.

In the private sector, entrepreneurs are recognised as positive agents of change, revolutionising markets by testing ideas and taking risks. In the public sector, why should it be any different?

In his first speech, Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock, argues that ‘a civil service that is more trusting of people, and gives the go-ahead to initiative will deliver better services’. The public sector, he says, must give local leaders the ‘trust to try things out’.

Hancock: Local leaders must be given the ‘trust to try things out’.

Hancock’s record at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills suggests he knows the importance of creating an environment where entrepreneurialism can flourish. In public services, his is a voice in support of those that have already taken the leap away from direct government control to set up independent organisations. His is also a voice for new models of service delivery within traditional public sector ownership. In the NHS, for example, the challenge of finding better ways to manage patients with chronic conditions by integrating health and social care is a place where new thinking is much-needed.

At Mutual Ventures, we work with local authorities, NHS organisations and front-line teams to identify, develop and grow the right model for their services – whatever that is. We support our clients to become ‘public service entrepreneurs’, combining strong public service ethos with commercial discipline whilst empowering their staff to innovate.

All the commissioners, leaders and staff groups we work with share the same thing: they are prepared to think differently. Sometimes this means them integrating with other services, sometimes it means increasing the amount of traded services, and sometimes it means setting up independently or as a joint venture.

As the new government settles into its task and the Autumn conference season approaches, promoting an enterprising public sector will remain high on the agenda. In the years to come we can expect public service entrepreneurs to become ever more influential at shaping our twenty-first century services.


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