Managing and growing public sector productivity

Knowledge Transfer

Wednesday 25 November 2009
Chair: Sir Richard Mottram GCB


Increasing financial pressures on UK government in the 2011-15 period have given new urgency to improving the ways in which we manage productivity in the public sector. Traditionally treated by economists as completely 'flat' over time, public sector productivity is now recognized as a key aspect of national productivity - not least because government accounts for 25 per cent of final consumption in the UK.

As UK government also becomes more modern and capital intensive - making strong use of ICTs, business re-engineering and risk-based administration - it will be increasingly important that departments and agencies can capture and measure productivity trends, can counteract adverse developments and actively manage continuous increases in productivity over time.

This seminar will look at two aspects of innovating out of recession in government by focusing hard on improving productivity. First, current productivity measures can be too specific, take a long time and generate too little information gain for public sector managers. More innovative ways of measuring productivity are needed that also account for vital aspects of public services, such as the quality of outputs and issues of safeguarding 'public value'. Second, a key driver of productivity change is innovation. Organisations need to see real pay-offs from innovation and this impact has to 'cash out' as productivity improvement if it is to be sustainable.

The session will look at the measurement of productivity in benefit processing, police and the NHS to examine these issues:

  • Dave Barnbrook (Department for Work and Pensions) will look at recent developments in productivity measurement within DWP and how this information has fed into changes in procedures.
  • Robert Arnott (Home Office) will discuss recent Home Office efforts to measure productivity, focussing on the Operation Quest programme.
  • Patrick Dunleavy and Leandro Carrera (LSE) will report on recent work on measuring productivity across NHS Acute Trusts in terms of their use of IT, management practices and innovations.

Speaker details

  • Dave Barnbrook is Director of the Business Modelling and Analysis Division in the Planning and Performance Management Directorate of the Department of Work and Pensions. ONS published his key 2008 paper on 'Productivity in Social Security Administration'.
  • Robert Arnott is Head of the Value for Money and Productivity Unit at the Home Office, where he has worked for a number of years. Key recent process improvement projects involving the Unit work with a diverse selection of stakeholders - including Operation QUEST in a number of police forces. The projects deliver significant performance and productivity improvements through a focus on nuts-and-bolts processes, with changes owned by operational staff themselves. The Home Office's growing attention to this area came directly from preparations, started in summer 2005, for the tighter fiscal environment forecast for the CSR period.
  • Patrick Dunleavy is Professor of Public Policy and Political Science at the London School of Economics and Chair of the LSE Public Policy Group. His research interests focus on moving all government processes online, how government communicates with citizens, electoral reform and citizen redress. His latest publications include (with Helen Margetts, Simon Bastow and Jane Tinkler), Digital Era Governance: IT Corporations, the State and E-government (Oxford University Press, Revised paperback edition, 2008).
  • Leandro Carrera is researching public sector productivity at LSE as part of the EDS Innovation Programme. He holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Arizona and his research interests include the measurement of public sector performance and innovation and new methods in applied social science research. He also has wide expertise in government across southern Europe and Latin America.
  • Sir Richard Mottram, GCB, is Visiting Professor and guest Lecturer on Leadership in the Public Sector at the London School of Economics. Sir Richard's career includes fifteen years as a Permanent Secretary in five different departments including the Department for Work and Pensions, the Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Defence, and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.