In this Report, the Committee examines the principles
which underpin the Government's programme of public service reform,
and in particular the idea of the public service ethos. This ethos,
we believe, should be the fundamental reference point for everything
else in the reform programme.
When someone describes him or herself as a 'public
servant' it is testimony to the power of the ethos. Yet a gap
seems today to be opening up between the traditional theory of
public service and the reality on the ground. Sometimes public
services, and those who work in them, fall short of the ideal.
And the involvement of the private sector raises questions about
possible threats to the ethos. The boundaries between public and
private services are increasingly difficult to define, and the
picture is also confused by the emergence of new types of partnerships.
We reject two rival myths about public service, one
suggesting that only the public sector can properly deliver public
services , the other implying that there is nothing special that
distinguishes public services from private services. We conclude
that, in the mixed economy of public service, it is possible for
private and voluntary sector bodies and people to uphold the public
service ethos, although the profit motive may put it under strain.
The public service ethos cannot be taken for granted;
it needs to be renewed and strengthened to set out clearly society's
aspirations for its public services. While the Government is making
some welcome progress towards explaining its vision of reform,
it has not yet provided a coherent framework for action.
In uncertain times for public service, a clearer
and more explicit way of explaining its values is needed. The
ethos needs to be nourished and cultivated. We recommend that
the most important values should be set out in a Public Service
Code, to be approved by Parliament and adopted by all bodies providing
those services. It should include the standards to be reached
in ethical behaviour, service delivery, administrative competence
and democratic accountability. The Code should be included in
invitations to tender and as a contract clause for public service
contracts, including employment contracts. It should also be considered
for inclusion in the proposed Civil Service Bill. Vigorous efforts
should be made to cultivate the right values among public servants,
including the establishment of a Public Service Academy.
A Public Service Code
People and organisations providing public services
should commit themselves to these principles:
- Observe at all times the ethical standards expected
of public servants and public service bodies, including the seven
principles of public life
- Make themselves accountable through elected representatives
and other means for their policies and performance, with the highest
standards of openness and transparency.
- Aim to deliver public services that match in
quality the best private equivalents, including standards of customer
care. Where there is no private sector equivalent, best practice
in the public sector should be matched.
- Treat public service workers and users fairly
and equitably, and involve them as much as possible in service
- Respect at all times the right of the citizen
to good administration as set out in the Charter of Fundamental
Rights of the European Union, and his or her right to safe, reliable
public services. Proper redress should be made where maladministration
has taken place.
- Remember at all times that public service means
serving the public, not serving the interests of those who provide
the service, and work collaboratively with others to this end.