Dispelling myth of public sector low performance

We have plenty of experience to share with private-sector counterparts, says
award-winning county council

Local government personnel departments started the new millennium with an
enhanced reputation delivering quality services.

New evidence available from the drive to introduce the sort of quality
improvement methods which were pioneered by the large blue chips, into local
government will bury the myth that it is private sector personnel people who
are sharper, more business focussed and provide better value for money than the
bureaucrats at County Hall.

In fact, many local authority personnel teams had already got their act
together long ago and had ensured that their services were demand-led and their
agendas closely reflected organisational needs.

In my authority, Worcestershire County Council, the team is structured to
maximise customer service.

Our business plan is tightly aligned to organisational objectives and we
have service agreements with our primary customers. Performance against
business plan objectives is closely monitored and reported in a public arena.

We are high-profile strategic partners in the shaping of the organisation
and have been instrumental in developing and assisting the authority to
implement the sort of culture change initiatives which are imperative to keep
up with the changing social and economic agenda we face.

Our team has a very high proportion of qualified staff who provide excellent
services to their customers (in our case, on a shoestring).

Finally, we have a structured approach to reviewing the continued
effectiveness and relevance of what we do and we are not afraid of making big
changes where necessary. This is a description of a modern personnel department
which probably everyone who reads this article would recognise.

What has changed for us is the opportunity presented by the new local
government modernisation agenda to measure, publish and benchmark our services
not only with other local authorities but with leading private sector
companies.

This is great for both our local communities (they can see what they are
getting) and our profession.

At the Socpo annual conference held in March, EP-Saratoga, an international
benchmarking company, presented the first Best Value Awards to four local
authorities. Worcestershire County Council received one of these awards.

While my team was absolutely delighted to be selected as an award winner
from the total of over 110 authorities which are actively involved in
benchmarking the quality of what they provide, it was the comments of Rick
Emslie, of EP-Saratoga, which was the icing on the cake for us. He said,
"It is pleasing to note that the commonly-held view that the public sector
lags behind the private on all aspects of personnel, is proving not to be true.

"There are examples of good practice and elements of high performance
that set an example for the private sector."

Yippee, a myth busted!

This not only good news for us in local government, it is good news for all
personnel professionals.

We know that our colleagues in the private sector have ideas we would like
to share, and now they will know we have something to offer in return. It
should lead

• Dilys Wynn is head of human resources at Worcestershire County Council

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