Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Public sector reform requires the right architecture - Hamilton

Stormont Executive press release - Department of Finance and Personnel

The Finance Minister Simon Hamilton MLA, today visited the Newry Chamber of Commerce where he outlined his plans for public sector reform.

The Minister said: “It is now almost six months since I outlined in my first speech as Finance Minister how I wanted to devote a considerable amount of effort during my time in office to reforming our public sector. 

“I have been hugely impressed by the response I have received from the business community, the third sector, trade unions and, perhaps most importantly, colleagues in the public sector. They all understand and appreciate the need to transform our public sector. 

“And that need is even more acute now than it was six short months ago. The Chancellor of the Exchequer’s recent comments that we aren’t even half way down the road of austerity and that he envisages a further £25billion in public spending cuts not only illustrate how tough times are here until at least the end of this decade, but should also convince us that reform of our public sector isn’t an option. It’s essential.”

He continued: “Given the fierce urgency to reform our public sector now so that the worst effects of austerity and further reductions in public spending don’t hurt Northern Ireland as much as they might otherwise, I realise that there will be an expectation that my public sector reform agenda will manifest itself in big things being done very fast. Reform isn’t something I invented on 1 August 2013. It has been happening across government for some time. Within my own Department, I have reviewed aspects of Land and Property Services and how our procurement process for major capital projects could be sped up. 

“But what Northern Ireland’s public sector needs isn’t isolated, one off reforms. Reform needs to be embedded in the DNA of the public sector and be something we do as a matter of course and not just out because of short term pressures. 

“I have merged the internal Business Consultancy Service and the Performance Efficiency and Delivery Unit (PEDU) into the new Public Sector Reform Division. This strengthened, unified team within my Department has been progressing its routine modernisation activity. But in addition, it is spending a lot of time assessing the various barriers to innovation in government and the kind of platforms we need to construct to make reform a reality. I understand the urgency some feel about the requirement for reform. I share that sense of urgency. I am impatient about the need to transform our public sector because I know the constraints our public finances face and the demands that people are putting on services. But reform requires the right architecture to be put in place. Getting the infrastructure right will take time. The tallest buildings in the world need deep foundations. So too with public sector reform.” 

The Minister concluded: “As well as realising reform opportunities where and when they exist, the year ahead will be one of getting the architecture of reform right. Reviewing how we already do reform. Setting out a clear strategy for the future. Creating the mechanisms and methodologies to allow ideas to be generated and developed into realities. Using targeted funding to kick-start innovation. These are the critical areas of infrastructure which must be in place for proper public sector reform to happen and for us in Northern Ireland to create the sort of effective and efficient government we need.”

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