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Thursday, 21st September, 2006

First findings from the ESRC Public Services Programme were presented to policy-makers at the Treasury last Friday, 15 September, 2006.

In a departure from the standard presentation format, delegates were invited to a poster display showing the initial findings as well as the projects planned for the next stage of the Programme. They then quizzed the Programmeís Director, Christopher Hood, and other researchers on the Programme on the findings and the challenges they pose for policy makers.

Introducing the event, Permanent Secretary Nick MacPherson said that he welcomed the opportunity to deepen the Treasuryís dialogue with the research community and noted that the issues explored by the Public Services Programme reflected just the issues that the Treasury are themselves grappling with.

Christopher Hood then outlined these issues through the three key themes running through the programme. Firstly, the question of performance indicators and the role that they can play in improving or distorting performance; second, the use of incentive systems and their appropriateness in a public service context and finally, the role of voice and choice in service reform and the importance of recognising the inverse relationship between them.

Hood left his audience with the promise to return with future findings; next stage projects include turnaround management, the link between performance and regulation and a comparison of the different attitudes towards public services in different parts of the UK. He said, ‘Public policy canít be made in a vacuum and the ESRCís Public Services Programme provides a concentrated programme of serious and systematic research that can inform and challenge policy makersí thinking’.