Like many countries, Jersey is facing significant demographic and cost pressures – pressures that will only intensify as time goes on. Our ageing population means that we will increasingly be faced with a diminishing workforce and the resulting challenges of funding high-quality public services with less money. As I have said, this predicament is not unique to Jersey – it is at the heart of government policies across the world – but it is still one that we must solve, and we must begin now. The good news is that, unlike so many other countries, Jersey is not buried beneath a mountain of debt, but if we want to maintain this healthy economy and the way of life that we all value, then we must begin now, by introducing a programme of far-reaching and meaningful reforms.
In practice, this will mean that every part of the public sector is going to have to change with the times – no exceptions. And we are already working hard to ensure that this happens. We have reduced bureaucracy. We have become more flexible and innovative in our approach to our work. Our services are being constantly refined and streamlined, and we are increasingly using technology as a way for customers to access them. Of course, there is still much to be done and, in such a complex organisation, it takes time for new ways of working to take hold, but I am already beginning to see the fruits of our drive for continuous improvement in every nook and cranny of the public sector.
Greater government efficiency will continue to make Jersey an attractive place to live, work and do business, encouraging inward investment that will support our economy and boost public finances.
What we are doing
Across the States we are focusing on creating the right conditions for long-lasting and effective change by continuously improving and redesigning services, updating government buildings, engaging employees in change and using technology in new ways.
We are exploring a range of alternative business models, such as integration, shared services and joint ventures, as well as developing new commissioning and procurement tools. We won’t necessarily always deliver these services ourselves; sometimes we might partner with third or private sector organisations in the interests of providing the best value for customers.
Service reviews will take place across secondary education; policing; infrastructure; sports and culture; social security and tax; justice; support services; economic development; external relations, and financial services; and environmental services.
A new primary care model has been set out for Health and Social Services to help them get more services out into the community and to ensure that people only come into hospital if they really need to.
The changes to Ports of Jersey and the creation of Andium Homes demonstrate how we have created arms-length bodies to deliver the best outcomes for Islanders in a sustainable and cost-efficient way.
We also recognise that we need to challenge and change laws that might be inhibiting innovation and modernisation. This has led us to ask questions about what we regulate, and how we might be able to reduce that regulation or regulate differently, and how we can remove duplication to benefit the customer and reduce cost.
People, culture and values
If change is to be meaningful and sustainable then we will need to ensure that staff and their representatives are involved in the design and delivery of public sector reform. With this in mind, we’ve invested in leadership and employee engagement programmes.
We have made significant progress with the programme of work to balance pay, terms and conditions across the public sector workforce. This will result in a new, simplified pay and reward framework with associated terms and conditions. The new framework, which is currently under negotiation, will not only ensure that employees receive equal pay and terms for work of equal value, but will also create a flexible workforce to meet the needs of future public services.
And it is not just our pay structures that we are modernising: we are also streamlining our relationships with recognised unions. In 2014, all unions signed up to a pilot framework agreement, meaning negotiations and consultations can take place in one forum. The framework allows all parties to work together and address key strategic issues. Like any relationship, it has its ups and downs, but overall it has improved our mutual understanding.
Reform is not just about modernising our services, it is also about ensuring that the States’ central hubs, where our key services are accessed, are up to date and fit for purpose. This is why we are investing in a new police station and hospital; it is also the driving force behind the improvements we are making to the Island’s school facilities and our ongoing work to reorganise public sector buildings into more efficient office spaces.
We are also working towards bringing together some services, which will allow customers to access them in fewer locations.
We have invested in training across the organisation that encourages employees to think differently about the way they work. This system, known as Lean, aims to provide people with ways of developing fresh, efficient approaches to tried-and-tested tasks without compromising quality.
We are already seeing the benefits of this Lean training, with examples across the organisation of staff who, having identified something that needed to change, have shown the confidence and initiative to find a way to do it better and more efficiently.
If we can deliver a service online, then that’s what we will aim to do, while at the same time recognising that some people will still prefer face-to-face or phone conversations.
But providing new digital services is just one ingredient of reform. eGovernment actually has a more wide-reaching impact, as it requires us to fundamentally redesign how we deliver services before we make them available digitally.
There are approximately 30 projects running across the States which are focusing on these areas of service improvement in a digital context.
The future of reform
We are making great progress. This may not necessarily be something that grand headlines or appears in Ministerial speeches very often, as it is slow and steady work, taking place right at the heart of the organisation. And yet in all sorts of ways, we are seeing those improvements filter through as we steadily shift towards more innovative and customer-orientated services founded on effective and efficient principles.
Recognising future challenges presents us with an opportunity to transform our public services so that they deliver modern, 21st-century services that are sustainable in the long term.
The work of making government more efficient should never end. It is vital that we continue what we have begun, so that we can preserve the way of life that we all value so much.