Issue 6

POLICY SHORTS

Increased use of Management Consultancy in Government

Alan Leaman of the Management Consultancies Association reports that the dramatic falls in public sector spending on consultancy may have come to an end. Apart from local government, fee income figures for 2012 show small increases in spending throughout the sector – though from a much reduced base. Part of this reflects the natural shift from policy-making to the implementation of change. But it is also clear that consulting firms are now helping public sector organisations to generate cashable savings while providing enhanced service to the public. The health sector, for instance, while required to make savings, is also engaged in significant restructuring, facing rising expectations from patients and looking for the right strategic investments. The public sector often gets a bad press but, as the recent MCA Awards winners all showed, it can use its access to consulting services to deliver step-changes in performance – raising quality while also making savings. One trend immediately stands out from the data. The ministerial cri de couer that more public sector business should be opened up to smaller companies appears to have had an effect – even though the vast majority of consulting takes place well away from central government. The UK consulting industry boasts a number of specialist consultancies that are outstanding in their field. Some of them – despite all the procurement difficulties and the costs of bidding – have devoted themselves to assisting public sector organisations to reach their goals. They are achieving impressive growth rates as well as superb outcomes for their clients. Recent years have also seen some significant enhancements in the public sector’s buying of consulting. Austerity has focused minds. The quality of business cases is improving, more effort is made to check whether projects can be carried out in-house and consultancies are often being deployed in a more strategic way. The arrival of the new Consultancy ONE procurement framework should also herald improvements. Its lengthy gestation has frustrated many consulting providers and buyers, but it has now gone ‘live’. Provided that the public sector gets behind it, and that it is effectively monitored and overseen, Consultancy ONE should ensure that there is far better tracking of the value that is generated through consulting work – and that lessons learnt are widely shared.

It will be interesting to see how that framework agreement works , because the comparable framework agreement developed in Scotland 3 years ago has had mixed results for both government and consultancy providers.

Major IPPR Research Study into ‘The condition of Britain ‘ launched

What are the issues causing anxiety in Britain today? How can we understand the pressures as well as the hidden potential in our society? The Condition of Britain is IPPR’s new flagship research programme to help better understand, as well as overcome, the challenges together.

This paper sets out the priorities for IPPR research, including a range of methods. IPPR want to talk to people across the UK and will also look at the latest thinking on key policy and the priorities for politics. Combined with rigorous analysis of the latest data and trends, they hope to “…generate new insights into the condition of Britain today and identify the resources and energies in society which could be mobilised to improve society…”.

And IPPR seeks Scottish solution to English HE problems…

Rick Muir of IPPR writes:

“The Scottish Funding Council has announced extra places at leading Scottish universities for disadvantaged students and that these students would be recruited using ‘contextual offers’.

This means that some of the most selective universities in Scotland will have hundreds of additional places reserved for young people from low income backgrounds and that those students will be able to get into university even if they did not meet the standard grades.

Where Scotland is leading, England should follow. Last week the Office for Fair Access argued that access to the elite universities in England has hardly improved in recent years despite lots of pressure from government and numerous initiatives, including fee waivers, scholarships and bursaries.

It is in this context that the IPPR Commission on the Future of Higher Education (in England) has just published its final report A Critical Path. We argue for a radical intensification of effort to open up access to the most selective courses.  Echoing plans in Scotland the IPPR call for the widespread use of lower offers by these institutions, so that an applicant is judged on their potential rather than just their A level grades. Evidence from Bristol and Oxford shows that students from poorer backgrounds recruited on lower grades do better than the average student at such universities in their final exams.“

Issue 6

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