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Bottom-up based democracy is the way forward for public services reform

Bottom-up based democracy is the way forward for public services reform says new Jimmy Reid Foundation paper by Dave Watson of UNISON Scotland

In the run up to the local authority elections in May 2017, the Jimmy Reid Foundation launches a major new policy paper on public service reform in Scotland by Dave Watson of UNISON Scotland.

The extensive and wide-ranging paper examines the case for public services, the challenges they currently face, and new approaches to public service reform. The paper is to be launched at a special seminar on Friday 20 January 2017 at the University of Edinburgh’s Academy of Government.

As an expert advisor to the 2011 Christie Commission on local government (‘The Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services in Scotland’) and an acknowledged expert on public services, Watson argues that financial and political pressures on Scotland’s public services have driven an agenda of piecemeal public service reform.

As an alternative, Watson lays out the case for the delivery of integrated public services built around recognisable communities, whose primary focus is to challenge the underlying inequalities that blight our Scottish society and waste public resources, generation after generation. He argues services should be delivered at the lowest practical level, allowing staff and citizens to design services in a way that best meets the needs of their communities.

Commenting on his proposals, Dave Watson said:

‘The role of central government should be to set the strategic direction based on outcomes – rather than trying to direct services from Edinburgh via detailed prescriptions. The longer governments are in office, the more they believe they can direct services from the centre. But with the small size of Scotland, this cannot be a justification for duplication and difference for the sake of it. That is why public service frameworks are required so that local services can focus on what matters to achieve positive outcomes without trying to ‘reinvent the wheel’. This means breaking out of the sterile ‘centralism versus localism’ debate that we have all long engaged in. It means taking a different approach in order to offers a co-operative, more equal society in Scotland, rather than one left to the vagaries of the market. What this means is building public services from the bottom up based on the principle of subsidiarity, with integration, democracy and transparency at the core of delivery’.

The paper is available here Public Service Reform by DaveWatson