Wary of ‘reforms’

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It is not surprising that councils have not yet responded to the SNP government’s community planning partnerships approach (your report, 26 June). It is overly bureaucratic, centralising and time-consuming.

Moreover, councils have borne the brunt of public 
sector job losses since 2007, 
according to Professor David Bell, the finance committee 
adviser.

Councils lost 36,000 of the 40,000 lost under the SNP 
government from 2007 to 2011 because of the government’s
failure fully to fund the 
concordat on tax and spending commitments.

This trend continued in 2012. In figures published this month, councils have shed another 5,500 posts, while the Scottish Government and its agencies have been protected.

It is little wonder that staff are wary of such “reforms”. This is a failure of SNP policy, not local practice.

(Prof) Arthur 
Midwinter

Raleigh Court

Falkirk

The report on the sluggish pace of public service reform 
(26 June) paints a depressing 
reality, but sadly not a surprising one. Excuses are easy when you’re answerable to no-one but yourself, as is the case here.

What we really need is a system where those in the higher echelons of the public sector need to justify their paltry performance to those whose lives suffer as a result.

Being more answerable to the people they serve is only half the battle, however.

We also need to turn the tide and help people who feel increasingly remote from public services to play an active part in realising the Christie Commission’s vision of responsive, creative and dynamic services that tackle ingrained inequalities and empower people and communities to achieve their aspirations and goals.

The third sector has a critical role to play here. As finance secretary John Swinney told the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and a group of third sector organisations the other week: “Your opportunity is now.”

His bold challenge was for the third sector not to contribute to the debate on public sector reform, but to own it and lead it. He told us: “The best solutions for the public will only come if the third sector is involved in shaping them.”

I couldn’t agree more but, as I said already, the real key is about putting people and communities at the heart of public services and recognising that the public sector’s raison d’etre is to meet people’s needs, not serve its own interest.

John Downie

Scottish Council for 
Voluntary Organisations

Mansfield Place

Edinburgh