Home Affairs Committee Press Notice

Session 2004-05, dated 22 February 2005


The Home Affairs Committee today publishes a report on the Home Office's approach to setting Public Service Agreement (PSA) targets.

The report welcomes the move towards fewer and simpler Home Office targets. However, it argues there is a need for a real reduction in centrally determined targets set outside the PSA framework. It recommends that 'key performance indicators' and supporting data should routinely be published.

The Committee notes the trend towards 'directional' PSA targets that do not quantify the desired level of improvement. It argues that quantified targets can have potential benefits as well as risks, and recommends that in the next round of PSA targets the Home Office should retain some quantitative elements.

The trend for 'standards' to replace targets in some areas is also discussed. Standards denote a commitment to maintain, rather than improve on, current levels of performance. The Committee concludes that standards can be acceptable-and sometimes even beneficial, as in the area of police performance-however it criticises the particular decision to downgrade the PSA target on re-offending to a standard.

This highlights the differences between two areas of Home Office policy. Police performance is driven by a sophisticated performance monitoring system and made accountable through a balanced basket of published information; in this area the Committee concludes that the need for detailed targets is consequently reduced. By contrast, the prison service is not supported by a comparable assessment framework-indeed, there even appears to be a culture of not using key performance indicators in relation to under-performing aspects. For this reason the Committee is critical of the reduction in targets set for the prison service.

The report suggests how the main benefits of PSA targets-those of accountability, performance management and strategic direction-can be increased further. It calls for Home Office objectives to be better aligned with the targets. It recommends that the Home Office should explain why it chooses particular baseline years for targets. Finally, it suggests ways in which the reporting of achievement of targets could be improved.