Select Committee on Public Administration Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum from The Prime Minister's Delivery Unit (NC 05)

  The reform and modernisation of the public services is the Government's top priority. To strengthen the capacity of Whitehall to deliver the Government's key objectives' the Prime Minister established the Delivery Unit—based in the Cabinet Office—in June 2001. The Unit reports to the Prime Minister through the Head of the Civil Service and Lord Macdonald, Minister for the Cabinet Office. It is headed by the Prime Minister's Chief Adviser on Delivery, Professor Michael Barber, who is based in No 10 Downing Street.

  The Unit's first task was to agree delivery contracts, on behalf of the Prime Minister, with the Secretaries of State responsible for health, education, crime, asylum and transport. The output targets in these contracts are consistent with the Public Service Agreements (PSAs) for these departments published in the 2000 spending review (SR2000) and cover a selection of PSA targets. They were intended to be internal management tools rather than published documents.

  The 2002 Spending Review is in the process of reviewing the PSAs and delivery contracts which will be brought together. The two documents will be aligned so that each Department will have a single public statement of its delivery priorities which will provide the basis for drawing up detailed delivery plans.

  This note sets out:

    —  how the Delivery Unit works closely with the Treasury and departments to ensure implementation of delivery priorities; and

    —  its role in the new Cabinet Office.


  The Delivery Unit's first task was to lead on the Prime Minister's behalf in agreeing delivery contracts, which set out key goals for 2005, with the Secretaries of State responsible for the key policy areas. The starting point for the key goals was the already agreed PSAs. In some cases they elaborate on or emphasise some aspects of the existing PSAs. In all cases, the key goals are consistent with and supportive of PSAs and the Departmental Expenditure Limits (DELs) agreed in SR2000.

  The 2002 Spending Review is reviewing PSAs and delivery contracts which will be brought together. All departments will therefore have a single public statement of their delivery priorities.

  The Delivery Unit has been working closely with the Treasury on the Spending Review 2002 to review the existing targets and advise Ministers and the Cabinet Committee on Public Services and Public Expenditure (PSX) on the delivery priorities.

  All delivery departments (and not just the current four priority departments) will be required to have in place effective delivery plans agreed with the Delivery Unit and the Treasury setting out how delivery priorities will be achieved with the spending plans set out in the Spending Review. The plan should set out:

    (i)  which Minister, in addition to the Secretary of State, is personally accountable for the delivery of the objective;

    (ii)  which senior civil servant, in addition to the Permanent Secretary, is personally responsible for delivery of the objective;

    (iii)  which divisions/teams of civil servants and/or agencies are responsible day to day for policy development and implementation;

    (iv)  how implementation will be brought about, including:

    —  precise objectives;

    —  the phases of the project, the milestones and the timetable;

    —  the strategy, including both challenge and support;

    —  showing how the behaviour, skills and culture of staff involved at every level, both in departments and in the services themselves, will change where necessary;

    —  the constraints;

    —  the resources available;

    —  the likely risks to delivery;

    —  the mechanisms in place to enable rapid feedback and refinement;

    (v)  how any necessary collaboration with other departments and other parts of the public sector will be brought about and sustained;

    (vi)  the extent to which the service, once the priorities were delivered, would match appropriate benchmarks.

  It is anticipated that where targets have not been changed, these delivery plans will build substantially on the existing plans. The Delivery Unit will continue to avoid unnecessary bureaucratic pressures on departments.

  The development of these delivery plans will be the subject of detailed discussion between the Delivery Unit, the Treasury and the relevant department. This will also enable co-operation and exchange of best practice between departments.

  Once finalised, these plans will enable the Delivery Unit to demonstrate to the Prime Minister that those responsible for each delivery priority know precisely how they will achieve it. The relevant Minister and department will then take full responsibility for delivery against the agreed plan and be held accountable for doing so through the Prime Minister's regular stocktakes and through the public expenditure PSX review process.

  Emerging problems with implementation will continue to be dealt with through the successful process already established. They are shared as early as possible with the Delivery Unit which sometimes acts in a problem-solving capacity by, for example, bringing to bear expertise from elsewhere in the public sector or the business and voluntary sectors. As a result, the Delivery Unit not only assists in solving problems with implementation of each individual objective but also those problems which affect several objectives.

  The working premise is that problems will be detected, defined and addressed directly, however complicated or intractable they might appear to be. The relationship between the Delivery Unit and departments will therefore continue to be one of partnership, with the former assisting the latter by promoting best practice and removing the barriers to delivery.

  The Prime Minister's stocktakes on his key delivery objectives with relevant Cabinet Ministers will continue to take place every six to eight weeks. The Prime Minister, assisted by Lord Macdonald, Minister for the Cabinet Office, Paul Boateng, Chief Secretary of the Treasury and Michael Barber, the Head of the Delivery Unit, will explore progress and focus on those aspects of policy which have been successful or problematic and the detail and means of delivery. The Prime Minister will follow up with any recommendations or specific instructions necessary to ensure delivery of the priorities. The Delivery Unit will review every six months for the Prime Minister and PSX progress on each key objective.


  All Departments are accountable for meeting all their agreed targets through the PSX process, which is vital to ensuring that investment is linked to outcomes. For those not in stocktake the Delivery Unit will assist the Treasury in the monitoring of department performance against the agreed targets. The Delivery Unit and the Treasury may, from time to time, undertake joint projects. The focus will be on the delivery process for each priority and helping to solve problems as they emerge. The Delivery Unit has aligned itself closely with the Treasury teams to help inform the spending review process.


  The Delivery Unit will continue to be responsible for ensuring that the Government achieves its delivery priorities, across the key areas of public service (health, education, crime, asylum and transport) and will expand its scope to include priorities in the other main domestic service delivery departments. Working closely with the Treasury, it will ensure that the departments have in place effective delivery plans for their PSAs. Through its continuing collaboration with the Treasury, it will develop the framework, methodology and database for delivering these targets and identify training and development needs for civil servants involved.

  The Delivery Unit will advise the Head of the Home Civil Service on the objectives (among the overall criteria) of the permanent secretaries responsible for delivering these key public services to which their performance pay, including bonuses, will be linked.


  The Delivery Unit will report regularly to the Prime Minister through the Minister for the Cabinet Office on progress on the delivery priorities of the relevant departments and will establish the agenda for his regular stocktake meetings with the Ministers concerned; and will report twice yearly to PSX. All departments remain accountable for meeting their PSAs through the PSX process.

  Precise decisions on which departments and PSA targets the Delivery Unit should prioritise will therefore be taken in the light of the PSAs which emerge from Spending Review 2002.

July 2002


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Prepared 29 July 2002