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Report of the Digital Government Review


Understanding the challenge: low opinions of the public sector

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Unfortunately, it is not always the case that the public sector is viewed as a great place to work.

Research performed for this review by Mortimer Spinks [169] with technology workers showed that even where remuneration was the same across private and public sectors, 83% of respondents would choose to work in the private sector compared to 47% that would choose to work in the public sector.

The figure was even lower, 42%, for people who would choose to work for a private sector firm operating in the public sector. In the field of digital services, despite the awards being won and the progress being made only 46% of respondents were aware of current work on digital government, and only 16% of respondents thought that public sector work would add significantly to their experience.

Similarly, a report by Reform and Deloitte calls for “a more constructive narrative” and says that public sector roles are becoming unattractive [170]. A journalist commenting on the report said “it’s becoming harder to attract, recruit and retain people for key jobs, because public sector jobs are now associated with stress, weak career progression and poor pay and conditions” [171].

As Michael Dugher MP pointed out in a recent Institute for Government speech on civil service reform, too many “civil servants are currently being made to feel like they are part of the problem, rather than part of the solution” [172].

This is something we must challenge, both in government and across the public sector as a whole. The recommendations that follow are focussed on the areas of digital, technology and central government; but a similar set of recommendations could be offered across the public sector. After all, the most used public services are local ones, and integrating complex multi-agency people-centered services at the local level is just as exciting and rewarding as building a central government service.

We trust that these recommendations and the overall review will contribute to a wider debate on the public sector which, rather than concentrating on criticising past performance, instead recognises the challenges and opportunities that all organisations face when going through digital transformation. Our aim, ultimately, is not critique so much as challenge and inspiration: to energise the public sector and to make all who work in and with it feel that they can help to build a better government.

[169] Information from 2116 respondents to the 2014 survey on Women in Technology, the detailed results are published as open data here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1PF8dVsQVPfmD_ljrKKF869zR5TdQ4bIP0zmoKcVYfXo/edit?usp=sharing
[170] The State of the State 2014: http://www.deloitte.com/view/en_GB/uk/industries/government-public-sector/state-of-the-state/index.htm
[171] Jane Dudman writing for the Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/public-leaders-network/2014/oct/28/demoralised-public-sector-staff-creative-cuts?CMP=new_1194
[172] http://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/news/latest/michael-dugher-speech-civil-service

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