Select Committee on Public Administration Twelfth Special Report

Appendix 2—Letter from the Chairman of the Committee to the Minister for the Cabinet Office

The Committee is grateful for the Government response to our report, From Citizen's Charter to Public Service Guarantees: Entitlements to Public Services. There is a great deal of information in the response about the Government's commitment to improving public services, which the Committee welcomes. We would, however, like to clarify the Government's position on the proposals contained in our original report, as the wording of the response is somewhat opaque in relation to some of our recommendations. In particular, the response does not directly address our central contention that there should be clear and precise statements of people's entitlements to public services in the form of Public Service Guarantees.

To this end, we would appreciate clarification of the response to our main recommendation (number 5) about the need for clear statements of people's entitlements to public services. The Government response states that: "…the Government will act to end unfairness by enshrining universal entitlements to basic standards and to eradicate remaining pockets of underperformance". This appears to accept the principle that people's entitlements to certain standards of public service provision should be recognised and articulated. It would be helpful to have more definite details about how the Government intends to implement this commitment and, specifically, if it will be through the adoption of the type of Public Service Guarantees that we recommend in our report. We would also like to know if the "universal entitlements" will be to precise standards or levels of provision, and whether they will contain details of enforceability and redress should standards of service delivery not be met.

The more general point we would make is that the Government response tends to focus on the aspect of our recommendations concerned with determining minimum standards for public services, rather than on the importance of setting out people's entitlements to public services. Clearly, defining and raising standards is an important part of any discussion of public service provision. Equally important, in our view, is for people to be made aware of and empowered to claim the public services they are entitled to. A central aim of our report was to urge the Government to spell out public service entitlements as a way of strengthening people's attachment to public services and encouraging them to take a more active role in claiming their rights to good public services. Any further light you could shed on the Government's position on promoting people's entitlements to public services—and what more it intends to do to express and communicate those entitlements—would be very much appreciated.

November 2008

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