Posts Tagged ‘reform’

First there was Demos’ Time to put trust back in the front line of public service.  Then came the Localis/KPMG report, The Bottom Line – a vision for local government, Reform’s The Front Line and last week we had the Government’s Putting the front line first.

The ‘front line’ is of course a term that comes from the battlefield and it has always struck me as curious that we should refer to staff who deal directly with the public as  front line.  Does it say something about how we view our customers?  Do we really see staff who have the most direct contact with the public as being at the forefront of the battleground doing combat with the enemy?

The trouble with these front line arguments is that in practice they don’t get you very far.  For sure the clinicians in a hospital do work that is vital but without their so called backroom colleagues, for example in procurement, ensuring that they have the equipment they need to do their jobs, they wouldn’t get very far.  The achievements and failures of large public service organisations are invariably the results of team effort.  Within a council there’s an inter-dependency between staff who deal directly with the public and those who facilitate them. Rather than being a hard split it’s a permeable relationship and rightly so. 

That inter-dependency makes the challenge of finding significant savings much more difficult.  It’s not necessarily simply a case of stripping away the middle managers and the paper-pushing bureaucrats or of service cuts.  There’s a need to really understand how different roles and functions fit together so that the best possible outcomes can be achieved with diminishing resources. 

Just as that won’t necessarily mean cutting discretionary services rather than reducing some statutory ones as CIPFA point out in After the downturn, neither should it be based upon a simplistic split between front line and support services.


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