The 'Vicious Triangle' affecting productivity in our public services
Two social researchers will have a strong message for policymakers next week, when they present the findings of their research at a conference in Westminster. Professor Iain McLean and Dr Dirk Haubrich will say that local public services in England are being affected by a 'vicious triangle' present in the way that central government assesses performance and need. The researchers are calling for a re-examination of the 'contradictory regimes' which govern public sector productivity.
The pair, from Oxford University, will deliver their findings at the conference "Do You Get What You Pay For? Getting to Grips with Public Service Productivity" in Westminster on Friday 29 September. They will present their paper alongside seven other professionals with an interest in public service productivity.
McLean, who is Professor of Politics at Oxford University, says that there are contradictory elements within the systems that measure performance and need within the regimes governing local authorities. "Central Government assesses the quality of service delivery in English local authorities through the Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA) regime. This is true for service delivery in education, social services, housing, benefits, and leisure."
However, the CPA does not always work together in harmony with other measurement systems.
"Government also uses what is known as an 'index of multiple deprivation' to assess the neediness of small areas to direct funds to them," says McLean. "Sometimes, very similar indices appear in both an authority's CPA score and an area's index of deprivation."
McLean illustrates the problem by explaining how school exam results influence performance measures (the CPA score) and need assessments.
"If you improve your school results, your CPA score goes up, but your funding from central government goes down. Conversely, if school results worsen, funding from central government goes up, but your CPA score goes down. Either way, you gain a (partly) financial bonus and suffer a (partly) financial penalty."
McLean and Haubrich conclude that there is a Catch-22 type situation experienced by public service providers throughout the UK, as they try to demonstrate both productivity and need.
"The implication for central government is that there are two contradictory regimes in place, at least one of which should be abandoned or modified," says McLean.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Alison Taylor, Centre for Market and Public Organisation (CMPO), University of Bristol on 0117 33 10799 Email: [email protected] http://www.bris.ac.uk/Depts/CMPO/events/workshops/psp/main.htm
Or Alexandra Saxon/Annika Howard at ESRC, on 01793 413032/413119
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
1. Researchers, policy professionals and the media are invited to the conference "Do You Get What You Pay For? Getting to Grips with Public Service Productivity", to be held in Room 8.1 of Local Government House, Smith Square, Westminster, London SW1P 3HZ at 10.30am on Friday, 29 September 2006.
2. The conference is organised by the Centre for Market and Public Organisation (CMPO) at the University of Bristol and the Economic and Social Research Council's Public Services Programme at All Souls College, Oxford. The Conference organisers are Simon Burgess, Director of CMPO and Prof. Christopher Hood, Director of the ESRC's Public Services Programme.
3. The ESRC is the UK's largest funding agency for research and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It provides independent, high quality, relevant research to business, the public sector and Government. The ESRC total expenditure in 2005-06 was £135 million. At any time, the ESRC supports more than 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and research policy institutes.
4. The Atkinson Review on Measuring Government Output and Productivity is published by the Office of National Statistics and is available at http://www.statistics.gov.uk/pdfdir/atkinrep0105.pdf
5. ESRC Society Today offers free access to a broad range of social science research and presents it in a way that makes it easy to navigate and saves users valuable time. As well as bringing together all ESRC-funded research (formerly accessible via the Regard website) and key online resources such as the Social Science Information Gateway and the UK Data Archive, non-ESRC resources are included, for example the Office for National Statistics. The portal provides access to early findings and research summaries, as well as full texts and original datasets through integrated search facilities. More at http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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