A report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) and the IPPR entitled “Capable Communities – Public service reform: The next chapter” has appeared. It’s another short one at 24 pages and it follows a long list of other reports concerned with co-production, such as the ones I’ve managed to cover here, here and here (and even back in October 2008, too)
It doesn’t seem that long ago since the Baroness Thatcher decided that “society” didn’t exist, we now have them coming at us from all political directions, along with various combinations of the words “social”, “good”, “value”, “capital” and “public”, and this report is no exception!
Whilst I support the obvious statement that “services work best when citizens are involved in producing them”, I cringe at some of the expectations of those who must be so detached from the society they are now trying to involve. Most councils struggle for volunteers be they school governors, PTA members, attendees at consultation events, community forums etc, so where are all the additional ones to come from?
The report is right in that in order for this ever to happen, the state needs to change. Citizens will only spend their time when value is returned to them and the community, not through the penny-pinching or pseudo-consultative exercises that it has been so often in the recent past. Results will have to be delivered before they are expected!
I hope that the survey results from the report are taken with a pinch of real experience before anyone decides that communities are actually willing or able to do many of these exercises without adequate funding or support. If the truth is out, they’ll be initially used as ways of finding savings, and we can then watch community, services and society wither, as well as the state.