News and Comment

25th anniversary guest blog series: Public and private sectors must learn from each other post General Election

Monday 5 January 2015


As we approach the General Election and (closer to home) my retirement, I am regularly being asked what the future may hold for public services.

Most obviously, whatever is the political make-up of the new Government, the need to reduce the deficit will remain.  In round numbers, this has to be brought down by £100 billion to achieve a balanced budget.  So further reductions in some areas of public expenditure look inevitable.

Also inevitable will be a further drive for efficiencies across both central and local government.  This will be a challenge, but meeting challenges is an opportunity for innovation.  Doing things better – offering better customer and client service at lower cost – is something which both public servants and the private sector can do.

We have seen some inspiring examples of innovation through our work with the Cabinet Office‘s Commissioning Academy.  As local public sector organisations work in partnership with each other, the private and the voluntary sectors they are rethinking the design and delivery of services.  A recent example in the North East is an IT provider being paid on their contribution to the desired outcome for the region: that of local economic growth.  This requires the IT provider to work closely and creatively with local communities.

Whichever political party or parties form the next Government, I hope they encourage learning and respect between the public and private sectors.  Learning between the sectors is vital to the future success of both.  It provides new ideas, fresh perspectives and opportunities to address the challenges of doing better with less.  In tough times, training budgets are often cut first.  They should be cut last. I find it inspiring to learn about examples of good practice wherever they are to be found and I suspect plenty of other people do too.

Mark Gibson is Chief Executive of the Whitehall & Industry Group


About the series

OPM is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and as a public interest organisation, we’ve always contributed to the debate about the future of public services.

With this and the next general election in mind, we’ve asked a number of senior thinkers to give their views on the challenges and opportunities facing public services and society in the near future.

This is one of a series of guest blogs, which we’ll be adding to in the coming weeks and months. To read previous posts in the series, go to our news and comment page.