Policy paper

2010 to 2015 government policy: government service reform

Updated 8 May 2015

This is a copy of a document that stated a policy of the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government. The previous URL of this page was https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/transforming-government-services-to-make-them-more-efficient-and-effective-for-users Current policies can be found at the GOV.UK policies list.


We want to make public services simpler, clearer and faster for users and make government services more efficient.

By doing this we will reduce waste, save money and improve government services to make them more effective for those who need them.


We are:

  • sharing services across government
  • making government services and information simpler, clearer, faster
  • increasing the quality of public services with commercial models and public service mutuals
  • reforming public bodies to make them more efficient and effective
  • using continuous improvement methods in government
  • reducing the cost of running government buildings


Government digital strategy

We published the ‘Government digital strategy’ in November 2012, and each department published its own digital strategy in December 2012.

Public bodies

The 2010 review of public bodies looked at over 900 bodies, covering NDPBs and some Non-Ministerial Departments and Public Corporations. Public bodies were evaluated against 3 tests:

  • does it perform a technical function?
  • do its activities require political impartiality?
  • does it need to act independently to establish facts?

The Minister for the Cabinet Office announced the outcome of the review in October 2010. Altogether around 500 of the bodies reviewed in 2010 are being reformed in some way.


The Mutuals Taskforce, chaired by Professor Julian Le Grand, launched its report ‘Public Service Mutuals – the Next Steps’ in June 2012. It set out the case for mutuals, the significant progress achieved and recommendations for the development of mutuals. It highlighted that since 2010 the number of public service mutuals has increased from 9 to at least 58 with about a further 40 projects planned for the future.

Shared services

The Cabinet Office published ‘Shared services – a strategic vision’ in 2011. It explained government’s intention to bring together back office transactional services in Human Resources (HR), Payroll, and Finance and Procurement across central government and its arms-length bodies as a whole.

The Public Expenditure sub-committee (Efficiency and Reform) agreed on the strategy for the next generation shared services programme in February 2012, which was then set out in the ‘Civil service reform plan’.

Bills and legislation

The Public Bodies Act 2011 allows ministers, by order, to abolish or make certain changes to the public bodies listed in the various schedules to the legislation, subject to consultation and Parliamentary approval.

Who we’re working with

The Cabinet Office works with the 17 central government departments and their partner organisations in order to achieve improvements in customer and cost-effective services.

We created the ICiPS to ‘enable the public sector to be self-sufficient in the implementation of continuous improvement, reducing the spend on external consultants, creating better value for the public purse and giving greater employee satisfaction.’

This partnership will help coordinate continuous improvement across the public sector, building on the governance and networks already established. The Institute will provide peer-to-peer support through its network events, recognised standards and CPD for Continuous Improvement Practitioners, and provide a place to collate best practice.

The ICiPS is a not-for-profit organisation moving towards charity status and is independent from government.

Appendix 1: sharing services across government

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

The ‘Strategic plan for next generation shared services’, published in December 2012, shows how we are implementing a programme of back office shared services. We will create shared services in human resources, payroll, finance and procurement, across departments and arm’s length bodies (ALBs).

We will do this by:

  • creating and running a Crown Oversight Function that works with departments to improve the quality of services provided whilst reducing the cost of running the shared services
  • creating 2 Independent Shared Service Centres (ISSCs) that will work with government departments
  • providing oversight and sharing of best practice and benchmarking facilities to 3 departments that will operate standalone Shared Service Centres
  • providing, as part of the work of the Independent Shared Services Centres, lower cost help for smaller departments and ALBs to plan their resources

Appendix 2: increasing the quality of public services with commercial models and public service mutuals

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

Public service mutuals are new public services that are run by public servants, yet are independent of government. These will help us to improve the value and quality of public services.

We will provide support and advice to help people set up public service mutuals by:

  • supporting public servants who want to form mutuals with a £10 million Mutuals Support Programme to provide professional services for promising new mutuals
  • having Mutuals Ambassadors there to help people running mutuals to solve problems, give their commercial expertise, and help promote new mutual models
  • bringing together a group of 15 local authority commissioners to provide insight and practical solutions that others can learn from
  • making the Commercial Team
  • having Crown Commercial Leads available to help with commercial projects across government
  • developing the ‘Right to Provide’ - a policy framework that works across central government for services to become mutuals (we are working with departments to identify further services that could become mutuals)
  • raising awareness through the Mutuals Information Service, publications and the Mutuals Twitter account - @mutualsgovuk – the website has information and guidance and the service runs a dedicated hotline (0845 5390543)

Appendix 3: reforming public bodies to make them more efficient and effective

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

We will increase efficiency and improve accountability of public bodies by:

  • making the amount of public bodies, and the work they do, more visible through publication of Public Bodies 2012 - the report sets out the size, spending and membership of all public bodies, letting people see where their money is being spent and who is responsible for spending it
  • reducing the number of public bodies by 300 through abolitions and mergers, and substantially reforming a further 120, to reduce spending on administration by at least £2.6 billion
  • carrying out a regular and thorough assessment of each public body once every 3 years (triennial reviews), questioning whether they should remain as a non-departmental public body (NDPB), close or be reformed, including making sure the highest standards of governance are upheld
  • using triennial reviews to identify opportunities for changing the way public bodies’ tasks are done and finding new and better ways of managing their work, such as the transfer of British Waterways to the care of the new waterways charity, the Canal and River Trust

Appendix 4: using continuous improvement methods in government

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

We are helping government departments to use new working methods that will help to constantly improve their services (known as ‘continuous improvement’) in their organisations. Continuous improvement involves systematically using methods and techniques that have been proven to improve efficiency in both the public and private sectors. The methods include Six Sigma, Lean, and Systems Thinking.

The Cabinet Office is helping every government department, as well as many agencies and arms-length bodies, to improve the way they work with an aim that all central departments will have produced benefits by 2015 as a result of continuous improvement techniques.

The Cabinet Office will enable this to happen by:

  • working with Civil Service Learning to establish what is required to support continuous improvement working methods
  • making it easier to move staff with experience of continuous improvement between departments to help maximise the return on investment departments have spent in training staff already, encouraging departments and agencies to work together and reducing spending on external consultants
  • developing benefits, guidance and an assurance model to make sure basic standards are established and improvements are measured - from 2013, the Cabinet Office will ask departments to report return on investment figures quarterly
  • designing and putting in place ways to maintain continuous improvement throughout the public sector, including continuing to work with the Institute for continuous improvement in the Public Sector (ICiPS)

We developed a continuous improvement resourcing model to help make the best use of government owned continuous improvement-trained resource, and to provide short to medium term support to departments and agencies across government.

The model is designed to help projects that will benefit from receiving expertise in continuous improvement, so that the working principles of continuous improvement (concentrating on what our customers value; cutting out waste and duplication, and empowering staff to improve what they do and how they do it so they can improve quality for the same cost, or maintain the same quality for less) can quickly become standard methods used in government. We are piloting this model in 2013.

Appendix 5: reducing the cost of running government buildings

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

The Government Property Unit (GPU) is working to:

  • create an effective and efficient government estate, which provides value for money for the taxpayer, reduces our environmental impact and enables improvements in the way we work
  • make savings by reducing the amount of locations used by government

To make this happen we need to make sure that:

  • we provide clear direction and coordination to the government estate management community on property policy and strategy
  • the Cabinet Office has sufficient controls to push forward for change where collaboration alone isn’t working
  • government understands the cost of its estate and accurate, complete and comparable management information reinforces all estate-related decision-making
  • teams responsible for managing government buildings are skilled and effectively structured and managed

Appendix 6: making government services and information simpler, clearer, faster

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

The Government Digital Service will continue to develop GOV.UK, the shared publishing platform for central government, and help teams throughout government to build and procure new digital services.

Online publishing

We are moving from more than 300 central government websites to 1. GOV.UK contains the citizen and business-facing material previously found on Directgov and Businesslink, and corporate content published by all government departments. Eventually more than 300 agencies and other government bodies will be moved over to the site.

Digital transactions

In the ‘Government digital strategy’, we committed to redesigning all existing government services that serve more than 100,000 users each year. The first 23 ‘exemplar’ services will be completed by March 2015.

Everyone who can use digital services independently will be encouraged to do so, but support will be provided for those who are not online. We are currently developing a Digital by Default Service Standard, which all government services must meet after it starts being enforced in April 2014.

Technology and service supply

We will establish simpler, clearer and faster tendering processes to make sure that more small and medium-sized businesses can benefit from the shift to digital within government. We will also make sure that common technology platforms are developed which can be shared throughout government.

As stated in the ‘Government digital strategy’, if legislative barriers exist which unnecessarily prevent the development of straightforward and convenient digital services, then we will work to remove them.

Appendix 7: buying cloud-based IT products and services

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

The government set out in May 2013 that purchasing cloud-based IT products and services through the cloud should be the first option for public sector buyers.

The ICT Strategy stresses the need for government to procure its technical infrastructure - its servers, internet hosting, etc - as commodity services (‘pay as you go’).

The ‘Government digital strategy’ explains that the G-Cloud framework is an example of this procurement for cloud-based IT services. G-Cloud lets suppliers offer cloud-based solutions on a pay-as-you-use basis on a maximum 24-month contract, which public sector bodies can buy through the Digital Marketplace.

Central government departments have a target to achieve 50% of new IT spend on cloud services and 50% use of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) by value, by 2015. Approximately 83% of G-Cloud suppliers are SMEs.

Using cloud-based services instead of traditional IT solutions is the government’s recommended purchasing method for public sector bodies. Government departments, local authorities and other public sector bodies can use Digital Marketplace to increase savings and efficiency, boosting businesses.

Our experience in developing the G-Cloud framework will be used to improve other digital procurement and commissioning reform.