The Government are implementing an ambitious programme of public sector reform. From welfare to education, we are changing the way services are delivered to the public. We are opening up policy making, ensuring that policy is made with implementation in mind. To improve the quality of public services, we are backing new delivery models, such as public service mutuals, and redesigning services to be digital by default.
Is the Minister aware that too many people still think that good design means a beautiful table or chair or a new piece of architecture, such as the Shard? There is a whole body of expert design capacity in this country that could help design services, particularly public services. Will he, his Department and the Government wake up to the fact that good design, as shown in a new publication from the Design Commission, could help recovery in this country?
I agree with everything that the hon. Gentleman says except his assumption that we are not already doing this. I know he is a member of the Design Commission, which produced that excellent publication; it is in fact very complimentary about a number of initiatives that the Government have taken, including the creation of the Government Digital Service, which is committed to ensuring that as we reform the delivery of public services, they are designed around the needs of the user rather than, as has far too often been the case, designed to suit the convenience of the Government.
Given that all public services are going to be under financial pressure for the next few years, is my right hon. Friend happy that enough sharing of best practice is taking place to find new, innovative ways to do more with less?
No, I am not happy that we are yet doing enough, but we are doing more. We are establishing a series of What Works organisations that will exist to share best practice and experiences. We have also set up the commissioning academy, an unexpected by-product of which is that it brings together public service deliverers from all over the public sector who network and share experience, which is already proving extremely beneficial.
On the subject of innovative public service design, the Minister abolished the Central Office of Information and sacked hundreds of staff while simultaneously increasing the number of spin merchants in his Department and others. Meanwhile, he put the Government Information Service out to tender, with contracts valuing £520 million, millions of which then went to a company which he himself had chaired in the past, although I accept that he took no part in letting that contract. There are many ways of describing this chain of events. Does he agree that intelligent design is not one of them?
We did dismantle the Central Office of Information, which was overloaded with 750 people who were not doing enough useful work. We cut down massively on the previous Government’s gross overspend on marketing and advertising, which was throwing money out of the back of a lorry wholly ineffectually. We therefore needed a lot fewer people in the Government communication service. Our own press and media operation in the Cabinet Office is smaller than what we inherited from the previous Government despite the fact that it has to service the Deputy Prime Minister as well as other Ministers and the Prime Minister.