This is the first report in a research programme designed to examine key contemporary issues in the delivery of public services.
We have been motivated to embark upon this programme of research by a sense of frustration. This frustration is born from the shared belief that policy-makers and government are neglecting to acknowledge and explore in any detail the wider purpose and benefits of public employment. The nature of public employment is largely taken for granted in the UK when it is, in fact, of vital importance from both an economic and a social perspective.
We believe that public employment has core values and benefits that are overlooked to the detriment of effective service delivery and modernisation. It is our contention that public employment, and more specifically direct public employment, provides a unique and strategic means of ensuring that the wider public sector can respond to citizens’ need in a flexible way; provide appropriate capacity to deliver local services and empower local communities; and allow for effective co-ordination and alignment of resources across the public services.
This report seeks to explore this wider purpose and reiterate the value of public employment in the contemporary policy context. In particular, it discusses the value of public employment in providing effective leverage over local economies; in shaping places; in managing costs and transactions; in sustaining democratic networks and accountability and; in realising the potential of the local workforce.
Each of the research partners brings a unique perspective and set of skills to this project. APSE, as the UK’s leading specialist in local authority front-line services, is conscious of the need to examine not only the effective delivery of the services themselves, but the wider impact of public employment in the provision of those services. CLES, as the only UK specialist research and membership organisation focused on economic development and regeneration, is driven by a desire to develop policy ideas which ensure the maximum contribution of local services to wider social and economic outcomes. INLOGOV believes it is of vital importance to straddle good academic understanding and practical relevance in the field of service delivery and democratic governance.
Collectively, from this service delivery, policy and research perspective, we want to renew and refresh the debate about the value of public employment. This is not because we necessarily view public employment as a virtuous objective in its own right or because we seek to justify certain employment practices in the public sector. This work is born out of a wish to acknowledge and explore the value of public employment because it fulfils a more important strategic purpose for public bodies than is currently recognised. We seek to redefine the role and purpose of public employment in this context and provide a stimulus to progressive policy debate. This report is the first contribution to that debate, which sets out our case. We are undertaking two pieces of primary research, which seek to quantify the benefits of public employment, firstly in economic and secondly in strategic policy-making? terms.
A copy of the full report is available to download below: