We’re in a much stronger position but still need to plan for the future now because every year without modernisation sees the costs of our public sector continuing to rise. Demand rises, the chains of command grow, headcount rises, costs go up, inefficiencies become more entrenched.
Take our Health Service.
We face enormous pressures on demand, driven by an ageing population, obesity and alcohol abuse to name a few. We have a range of rising costs, including expensive new drugs.
Pretending there is some ‘easy option’ of sticking with the status quo and hoping that a little bit of extra money will smooth over the challenges is completely unrealistic.
We need modernisation on both sides of the equation. Modernisation to do something about the demand for healthcare - that's public health. And modernisation to make the supply of healthcare more efficient – that's about opening up the system, being competitive and cutting out waste and bureaucracy.
Put another way - it’s not that we can’t afford to modernise; it’s that we can’t afford not to modernise. We need to be bold, creative and innovative with some radical thinking and policies that challenge the status quo.
In May last year I was asked to assume political responsibility for public sector reform; not quite the poisoned chalice some might think but a considerable challenge nonetheless! Fortunately I have the talents and energy of Deputy Bryans to assist.
For the avoidance of doubt, complete modernisation of the public sector is a massive challenge but one that I relish and is without doubt my most important objective. The Island still faces significant economic and financial challenges as well as rapid social, technological and demographic changes.
Although we have a strong economic base and sound public finances we’ll soon be facing the challenges of an aging population. That means more demand for health services, social care and pensions.
At a time when a smaller proportion of our population will be of working age it’s going to become much harder to fund our public services.
As a result we need to find ways now to control spending, and deliver better services for less. The alternative is raising taxes which would have a devastating effect on Islanders and the economy.
Every part of the public sector is going to have to change with the times, and anyone thinking this won’t affect them must think again.
Until now, across the public sector there has too often been a failure to build and sustain new critical skills for running modern public services. This has to change.
In the future the public sector will have to be faster, more skilled, more capable, more accountable for delivery, more focused on outcome not process. All around the world governments are wrestling with the same problems.
In Singapore, a Public Service 21 program is encouraging staff to question assumptions and seek new ways of doing things.
Here in Jersey we are training our staff to use the business process Lean, in a concerted effort to streamline outdated systems and improve efficiency.
In India they are recognising the importance of improving their civil service through training. Here in Jersey, new training programmes are developing senior managers and Chief Officers so they are prepared for leading a reformed organisation.
What we have achieved so far
We have already delivered some structural reforms and many more will follow.
The Harbour and Airport were operated entirely independently until we appointed a single Group Chief Executive with a mandate to fully integrate them and remove duplicated functions across separate locations. In doing so we stripped out more than £1m of costs.
The Ports are being moved towards incorporation and greater commercial freedom to drive revenue growth from new initiatives. This will guarantee their long term sustainability without the need for state subsidy.
We are well on the way to transforming social housing with the incorporation of the housing department and its housing stock into Andium Homes; a financially sustainable model providing enough social housing for those in need.
Everywhere you look reform is beginning to take hold especially in key departments like Health and Education where it is most needed but there is much still to do.
We are making the most of our already close links with the charity and voluntary sector, because government is not necessarily the best or only option for delivering services. The people who know the job best are those who deliver frontline services day-in, day-out.
We are focusing initially on 5 areas:
- workforce modernisiation
- modern office
Progress hasn’t been widely publicised while we’ve been establishing the systems and running pilot projects in various departments as proof of concept.
I’ll briefly explain the 5 areas of focus.
1 - Lean programme
Firstly Lean, a system developed after the second world war and successfully deployed by Toyota that focusses on improving processes.
Through our Lean programme we have trained nearly 1,000 staff to analyse the way we do things and come up with more efficient alternatives.
Two small examples:
- Lean working has reduced admin time for paying hourly staff at Highlands College
- It has led to the financial turnaround of Bon Santé restaurant, from loss making to profit, at the General Hospital
2 - e-government
The next programme involves e-government, moving from traditional delivery of services to digitial. By embracing innovation and technology, we will make services increasingly cost effective, accessible, and convenient for Islanders and businesses.
For an Island aspiring to be a centre for digital excellence, government needs to lead the way. It may surprise you, as it did me, that currently, of all the transactions between Islanders and the States of Jersey only 7.5% are undertaken via digital channels.
You can’t even book a squash court on line!
The e-government program aims to raise transaction levels from 7.5% to 75% within 5 years - at the latest.
By comparison in Estonia today, residents can vote in elections from their living room, file their tax returns in minutes and sign a legally binding contract over the Internet, from anywhere in the world, via their mobile phone.
Our e-government program has some catching up to do, but it's underway, will offer e-payments, online forms and, as far as possible, 24/7 access.
If a service can be delivered online, then it should be delivered online – keeping other options open for those without digital access. Our aim is for you to just ‘tell us once’ when your circumstances change, and that change will be mapped across all departments.
Individuals will be able to use a mobile phone to pay for parking and receive tailored health screening information. For businesses it will mean less bureaucracy and a smoother, faster interaction with Government.
Digital public services can also stimulate the Island’s economy. As we invest in technology and draw on the expertise of the local IT industry there will be growth opportunities for the digital sector. Government will be a big client with long term requirements that will help to stimulate the local industry; an industry that will need to grow its capacity and capability.
Digital Jersey is helping to create a more cohesive IT industry, which can make the most of the opportunities that e-Government presents.
3 - Workforce modernisation
Another key work stream is workforce modernisation. This includes reviewing employee pensions to make them fairer, sustainable and affordable.
We are reducing 76 employment policies to around 35. We have already agreed new policies for maternity & adoption leave, flexible working, inclement weather, over and under payments, paternity leave, special leave and more.
We want to reward people for their contribution, not their length of service. Pay progression is now based on skills, not time served, in Fire & Prison services.
And we are not just modernising pay structures, but also our relationship with union representatives.
4 - Culture
Our staff need to be ready to handle change and that means a new culture. We are developing senior managers and Chief Officers so they can lead a reformed organisation, including improved performance management.
Our leadership programme will give public servants the courage, support and flexibility to try sensible and innovative ideas, rejecting those which don’t work and adopting those that do. Risk and recklessness are not the same thing. Risk, if managed properly, can be pioneering, original and transformative.
And the real error isn’t in making mistakes. The real error is the fear of not trying anything new or continuing to do something that isn’t working. So we need a culture that is more open, less bureaucratic, focused on the delivery of outcomes rather than on the process.
At its best, innovation inside the public sector can be used to support growth in the private sector.
5 - Modern office
The final significant work stream involves our Modern Office project.
We are aiming to reduce the number of office buildings we use, sell those we don’t need while investing the proceeds into improving the remaining stock and using our remaining buildings more efficiently.
Priorities for 2014
This year we are planning to evaluate all jobs across the States.
We are introducing a new performance management system, to reward good performance and to effectively manage poor performance, rather than just accept it as may have been the case in the past.
We will publish our plan to modernise office accommodation.
Lean is encouraging staff to challenge the way we do things, so the status quo gets the same scrutiny as a new idea.
e-government is testing new digital services.
Workforce Modernisation is reducing the number of different pay structures.
Outdated or ineffective policies are being amended.
We want to ensure that every penny of States spending boosts competitiveness. We need a less bureaucratic public sector that is nimble enough to adapt to the changing needs of our island; a modern cost effective Public Sector that can help keep Jersey competitive, attract business, control spending, and keep taxes low.
The work of making government more efficient should never end. I believe that we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to transform our public service.
I think the lessons from the past are clear.
We didn’t use a joined up approach and there was no compelling need to drive change. Critically we looked at it from a government perspective and not from the consumer or society side.
This time it must be different. A different approach from top down bureaucracy to bottom up innovation.
That’s why this time – we not only must, but we can do it.