Strategic public service delivery

I was chatting to my brother a few weeks ago, and our conversation broached the subject of government strategy—or more to the point, a strategy for centrally-provided public services.  And I had a similar discussion with my uncle last week.

Government strategy is flawed.  It is defined in part by annualised budgets, budgets that encourage full in-year spend—if you don’t spend everything, you can’t carry it over and your area will likely be seen as able to cope on a reduced budget next year.  And in part, strategy is defined by the four to five year periods between elections.

For many strands of government policy, the five-year terms aren’t sufficient to define and implement against a fundamental strategy.  Education, health, crime, the environment are all areas in which the strategic vision is necessarily long.  And while the day-to-day, year-to-year implementation of that strategy may vary, the long-term vision should be relatively fixed for periods of many years.

But the regularity of budget allocations and elections doesn’t currently allow for such visioning.

To address this, perhaps the big three political parties should get together to define overarching strategies for some of the key pillars for which central government is responsible: education, health, crime, the social environment, the global environment.

If the overarching strategies can be agreed and defined, or at least their less contentious facets, then opposition parties can focus their efforts (and heckling) on keeping the governing party honest with respect to delivery against those strategy.  And this will go some way towards breaking the four/five year cycle.

How to break the perverse behaviour brought about by the annual budget allocation is a subject for another day, and likely another blog.


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