1. This is the third of a series of Reports by the
Public Administration Select Committee resulting from an inquiry
into Public Services: Putting People First.
Our inquiry has explored how public services could be improved
by taking the perspective of the people that use services and
involving them to a greater extent in service design and provision.
It follows on from our predecessor Committee's report on Choice,
Voice and Public Services,
which considered how listening to and learning from the 'voice'
of service users could make public services better.
2. We have identified several themes in the course
of this inquiry that concern how public services could be more
responsive to the people they serve:
- How government and public services
handle and learn from complaints;
- How public service providers work together with
service users in the design and delivery of services; and
- How standards of service could be set in order
to guarantee minimum levels of service provision.
3. This Report examines the lasting impact of the
Citizen's Charter programme in improving the standard of public
service provision. In the course of our inquiry, we took evidence
from Bernard Herdan, author of a government review of the Charter
Mark scheme (the Government's national standard for customer service
in public service delivery). We also took evidence on minimum
standards of public services from Ann Abraham, the Parliamentary
and Health Service Ombudsman; David Bell, Permanent Secretary
of the then Department for Education and Skills; and Peter Wilkinson
of the Audit Commission. In addition, we had the benefit of being
able to draw on over fifty memoranda submitted in response to
our issues and questions paper.
4. In this Report, we re-examine some of the ideas
associated with the Citizen's Charter initiative that retain their
relevance today. We look first at the background to the Citizen's
Charter programme and its impact on how public services are viewed.
We then examine issues of user satisfaction with public services:
in particular, the role of the Charter Mark (and its successor
scheme, the Customer Service Excellence standard) in ensuring
that public services focus on the needs and views of service users.
Finally, we consider the idea of 'Public Service Guarantees'which,
like the charters for public services introduced under the Citizen's
Charter, would act as a mechanism for setting out the standards
of service provision that people can expect from public services.