The Conservative Party has called for an end to shaming public sector workers and a new “partnership with the professions” to boost performance levels.
A report, The Wellbeing of the Nation, adds that the amount that the public sector can learn from private businesses has been overstated.
This is a departure from previous Conservative doctrine and is prompted, the report says, by the recognition that: “The new Conservative generation values the public services both for their contribution to economic growth and for their impact on the wellbeing of every individual citizen.”
The study claims that “a private corporation which publicly shamed its employees in the way that government has done in recent years would not long survive” and that public sector workers “have sometimes been made to feel like helpless pawns in a giant system, rather than the focus of the professional endeavours of a team of dedicated people”.
“Improvement in services will only be achieved if the professionals, on whose skill and knowledge the public depend, are themselves motivated by a sense of public trust, and inspired to give of their best through the freedom to exercise their professional skills in an appropriate framework of accountability,” the report says.
It acknowledges that there has been too much regulation of professions such as medicine and teaching by both Conservative and Labour governments.
“Stronger accountability was seen as something ‘done to’ the professions, rather than being a challenge to which the professions themselves responded”, the report concludes.
It calls for a new partnership based on two things:
Recognition on the part of policy-makers that professional people will be better motivated and will deliver better service if they have more confidence that their professional skills and commitment are respected by their employers
Recognition on the part of the professions that any move to release professional people from the constraints under which they currently work will need to be accompanied by stronger structures within the professions to enforce the principle of professional accountability.
Cabinet secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell has been targeting skills and performance levels in the civil service with initiatives which include departmental capability reviews, a new civil service code and a “leadership qualities framework”.