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“Vicious triangle” affecting productivity

Leading researchers have condemned government measures in public service productivity, claiming a “catch-22” situation has arisen.

Further, they claim that “local public services in England are being affected by a “vicious triangle” present in the way that central government assesses performance and need”.

Professor Iain McLean and Dr Dirk Haubrich have called for a re-examination of the “contradictory regimes” currently governing public sector productivity.

“Central Government assesses the quality of service delivery in English local authorities through the Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA) regime”, explains Professor McLean, who teaches at Oxford University. “This is true for service delivery in education, social services, housing, benefits, and leisure”.

Delivering their findings today at a conference in Westminster, entitled “Do You Get What You Pay For? Getting to Grips with Public Service Productivity”, Prof McLean continued: “Government also uses what is known as an “index of multiple deprivation” to assess the neediness of small areas to direct funds to them”.

“Sometimes, very similar indices appear in both an authoritys CPA score and an area’s index of deprivation”.

“If you improve your school results, your CPA score goes up, but your funding from central government goes down. Conversely, if school results worsen, funding from central government goes up, but your CPA score goes down. Either way, you gain a (partly) financial bonus and suffer a (partly) financial penalty”, he explains.

They contend that in trying to demonstrate both productivity and need, there has developed a catch-22 type situation affecting public services throughout the UK.

Prof McLean added: “The implication for central government is that there are two contradictory regimes in place, at least one of which should be abandoned or modified”.

Vijay Pattni

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