Here's the Deal...
- 3 April 2012
- From the section Wales politics
Betsan has come down with end-of-term lurgy - so it's @TobyMasonBBC standing in with some holiday reading for you.
When Chairman Mao launched the Cultural Revolution in 1966, it was as a bulwark against what he saw as the encroaching forces of capitalism, and the need to consolidate socialism at every level in Chinese society.
As the Welsh Government looks across the border with England, it clearly sees the encroaching forces of competition in public services, be it in the health service through the Health Bill, free schools, a possible university takeover of A levels, market facing pay proposals and many others.
Their answer, or at least part of it, is this document: The Strategic Framework for the Public Service Workforce in Wales.
The First Minister told his Cabinet colleagues that the framework was "a high level forward looking document, which set out a series of principles and aspirations and addressed the need for cultural change to transform delivery".
Let's be very clear. The "cultural change" here does not signal a move from the collaborative approach to public service delivery espoused by successive Welsh governments. Far from it. It's a restatement of values. If there is a progression here, then it's one of vocabulary not ethos. This is Carwyn's Cultural Revolution.
Central to the First Minister's vision is what he calls the "Deal" (his inverted commas and capital letter) between the Welsh Government and the public sector workforce in Wales.
What does that "Deal" involve?
"The Welsh Government wants to see tangible demonstration of its values by organisations and their employees. A key source of risk is that there is neither one employer nor one authority for employment. The Deal is about changing behaviour and delivering results. Public servants need to:
· find real satisfaction in jobs that they know deliver.
· span boundaries in both their work and thinking.
· focus on outcomes.
· know when to rise above organisational self-interest.
· learn not blame.
· understand, respect and value each others' roles and responsibilities and wellbeing.
So that's the public service side. What of the Welsh Government's side? Here goes:
"As a Government our side of the Deal is to set out what we want:
· engagement with the Welsh Government's agenda across Portfolios.
· accountability for the role of public service employment in the well being and economy of Wales.
· a Welsh response to external pressures on employment, including imposed changes.
· the free movement of labour and talent between employers underwritten by continuity of employment.
· to support a range of flexible interventions to support any public servants displaced as a result of the current climate.
· better, explicitly recognised and rewarded use of frontline experience.
· constantly raised levels of employee engagement and greater numbers of highly engaged employees.
· raising and tackling the implications arising from separate terms and conditions of service, including pensions, working patterns, pay and reward with a view to a fairer, affordable public service.
· harmonised, if not shared, systems, processes and services.
There you have it. That's the Deal.
It's hard to discern how the Deal will work in practice. Will the unions and government both sign it? Will public service employees be encouraged to carry round embossed cards reminding them to "rise above organisational self interest" when it arises?
Most importantly - what happens if the Deal is broken - on either side?
Another key theme of the paper is leadership - something that really does exercise Ministers' minds. Many are privately despairing about the quality of leadership in some parts of the civil service and the public sector more widely. The First Minister's vision is of a "new cadre of leaders" to take the Deal forward:
"Leaders who can clearly communicate and explain the vision and understand the cultural conditions that support and sustain high levels of engagement. Leaders must align the role of an organisation with the realities of the outside world and facilitate new ways to deliver the business, new career paths and embed pride in the Wales brand."
How will these leaders be created?
"As we continue to aspire to the concept of a Welsh Public Service, with greater integration and collaboration, it is important to build a cadre of leaders who are trained to international standards and who understand the social, political and economic context of Wales. This professional class of public service leaders will need to be attuned to the wider world of leadership and development and be immersed in latest practice.
"We believe this is best achieved through using our existing institutions using the leadership, management, research and policy capacity which already exists across Wales. We believe this approach would be ideally suited as we enter the next phase of devolution with a refreshed Assembly and new powers.
"We will look to harness this capacity along the lines of a virtual Harvard Kennedy School of Government which by any measure is the leading global institution for public affairs, public policy and preparing the public service practitioners for the future."
Will it work? Well, Tony Blair complained bitterly of the "scars of my back" as he tried to drive public sector reform through during his term as Prime Minister. It's unlikely the First Minister will suffer in the same way in relation to his approach:
"We will be working through the principle of progress by consent as we seek to reach a consensus all on the matters contained in this framework and move forward together. We have a balance to strike between ensuring that our approach to the public service workforce is taken forward but wishing to take account of the views and advice of our social partners."
Where does all this leave us? There certainly is a "Welsh way" for public services distinct from England. For better or for worse? You - the much vaunted citizen - will have to decide.