Participated in a breakfast meeting on 'Putting the public into public services: engaging people in scrutiny', at the National Consumer Council's London headquarters today.
The basis of the meeting was around how better regulation could lead to better citizen engagement and the audience were a mixture of those from regulatory bodies, the public sector and consumer bodies. The initial presentations were good from Abena Dadze-Arthur from NCC, Anna Walker from the Healthcare Commission and Phil Morgan from TPAS putting useful context on the debate.
The NCC research is attempting to put user experience at the heart of inspection, rather than just a tickbox approach. It also considers getting ordinary people onto inspection panels rather than 'experts' and how new forms of communication can be utilised to engage better.
Discussion also took place about the quietest voices and Phil Morgan gave some examples about tenants representatives and how they engage in housing inspections.
I pointed out that in terms of local government the CPA process that was in place did not necessarily start from the perspective of what was best for the citizen but was probably developed by the Audit Commission based on Government priorities. Local authorities delivered very successfully against these priorities and demonstrated dramatic improvement, however this didn't lead to improved public satisfaction. Therefore if the framework you are asked to operate within is wrong then institutionally your approach and behaviour could be wrong.
Jo Dungey of the LGA also pointed out that Councillors are lay people and some very good examples of scrutiny actually already exist across the country.
I made some further points around raising expectations when you can't deliver, harnessing the ideas and knowledge of the frontline workforce and that sometimes the public are wrong as in alternative weekly collections.
All in all it was a really useful and informative discussion and I would expect we are still closer to the start of this debate than the conclusion.