MPs comment on integration across government report

13 March 2013

Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, comments on a report by the National Audit Office (NAO), which includes a case study on whole-place community budgets.

Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP said:

"When costs are being cut across government, transforming public services to deliver with ever tightening budgets requires government bodies to coordinate service delivery, bring together fragmented interventions and share back-office functions. Integration across departments is essential to meet these imperatives and to ensure that the quality of services is sustained or improved.

"However, government’s track record of integration has been poor. Only a quarter of the future activity proposed in departments business plans mention joint working with other departments. The government must seize more opportunities to join up frontline services and back office functions.

"The government does not have an evidence base that allows it to identify integration opportunities or properly assess the costs and benefits of integration. It is, in effect, fumbling in the dark. With 6 Departments assessing themselves ‘weak’ at collaborative working, it is little surprise that intended achievements have not been realised.

"All too often initiatives have been implemented with little or no thought for potential benefits and costs. Some staggering examples of failure cannot be repeated. Take the Department of Health, which has struggled to implement fully integrated patient record systems across the NHS, despite spending in excess of £2.7 billion trying.

"London 2012 showed how government can get integration right: it coordinated the input of a wide range of organisations to deliver both the Olympic and Paralympic Games successfully. The Cabinet Office and the Treasury need to take on the responsibility for promoting integration initiatives across government and creating the right conditions for them to be carried out successfully.

"Community budgets aim to create and assess new ways of joining up delivery of local services. Early signs show that the 4 pilot schemes are learning from past mistakes and have identified potential costs and benefits of proposed reforms. If the pilot schemes are successful, there is an opportunity to make significant savings, estimated to be as much as £270 million in the case of Greater Manchester.

"This is encouraging and the Department for Communities and Local Government and the local areas involved now need to commit to delivering these interventions. They need to keep their eye on the ball to make sure this potential is realised."

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