Monday, April 12, 2010
threats as a policy tool
Britain and China are more similar than I thought. In their toolbox of policy measures, fear and threat are favoured tools. Yesterday Gordon Brown promised (threatened) to have 1,000 “failing schools taken over”.
He promises that inadequate schools, hospital authorities and police forces will all be subject to forms of takeover if either objective results or parental ballots demand new leadership. In education this could mean being taken over by successful state or private schools, education chains, or universities.
"The days of take it or leave it public services are over," Brown says. "The days of just minimum standards are over. The days of the impersonal are finished. It has to be personal, accountable and tailored to your needs, and with a mechanism to trigger change if the service does not meet your needs."
He says the aim is to unleash the highest quality providers, whether public or private, so that they can meet needs, not just in their local areas, but to turn around performance in other areas too.
And trust in training in leadership and the market is still evident -
He also claims Labour has built a generation of public service leaders capable of running difficult schools, and sharing their leadership skills with other schools. He told the Guardian that his plan was better than the Conservative proposal to introduce a wave of new schools built on the Swedish model, since the Tory system required a costly surfeit of places. He said: "The Swedish free market school experiment has not been successful. The evidence of the Swedish equivalent of Ofsted is that it has led to lower standards and growing inequalities."
I was reminded of some articles on the experience of identifying failing PSOs (public sector organisations) and activating a process whereby they were “turned around”. After some searching I found them – on the sites of (a) the European Group of Public Administration and (b) the Office of the UK Deputy Prime Minister. In the early part of the decade, the UK government sponsored a research projects on “Learning from the experience of recovery” – which focussed on about 15 "failing" municipalities. The papers from the project can (at the moment) be found at http://www.communities.gov.uk/localgovernment/localregional/servicedelivery/learning/
I’ve downloaded them and will do a summary shortly.
Communities and Local Government is a website of the British government - which contains guidelines and research papers for local authorities. Apart from the above paper, I also found a strategic guide, Improving Public Access to Better Quality Toilets.According o the site the guidehighlights some innovative approaches taken by local authorities to public toilet provision, although it does not prescribe what approaches they should take. Local authorities are the ones who are best placed to determine the mix of approaches most suitable to their area, and this guidance is intended to support them in making that decision.
This guidance is primarily intended for local authorities and partnerships wishing to explore the feasibility of setting up a Community Toilet Scheme. It provides an overview of the Community Toilet Scheme developed by the London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames, as well as a step-by-step guide on how to set up a similar scheme.
In addition, the toolkit includes a case study of the SatLav text messaging service operated by Westminster City Council, which makes use of mobile phone technology to help the public locate their closest accessible toilets