Speech by Minister Francis Maude on 7 July 2011, marking the launch of new government commitments to transparency in public services.
7 July 2011
Six years ago, Sir Bruce Keogh, then a cardiac surgeon in Birmingham, did something amazing: he convinced all his surgical colleagues to publish their individual patient mortality rates. Six years later, death rates for some common operations have fallen nationally by over 20 per cent. I am delighted that Sir Bruce is here today, and that he is going to give you some insight into the power of openness and transparency in public services. His work shows that it’s as much about saving lives as improving public service quality and performance.
A fortnight after we formed the Coalition, the Prime Minister set out, in a public letter, his vision of making us the most transparent government in the world. We believe that openness has the power to absolutely transform the way Government and society works for the better:
It makes accountability and choice real for citizens.
It improves outcomes and productivity in key services through informed comparison.
It transforms social relationships - empowering individuals and communities.
And it drives dynamic economic growth. McKinsey’s report into transparency and open public services calculated that Europe’s GDP could grow by 250 billion Euro - 225 billion Pounds - if the widespread reform of public services through openness that we are pioneering is achieved.
As the Prime Minister said just now, openness is at the heart of the Coalition’s purpose: “to radically redistribute power away from government and to communities and people”.
The old way of running public services, where power, information and control was centralised into bureaucratic, top-heavy departments, has failed. It’s not just that it costs too much - though it does - but it fundamentally skews the balance of power towards the elites in the centre, and ignores local communities. This cannot continue.
The power shift we will achieve through openness is a major departure from these tired old ways of working. We are moving to re-establish individual responsibility and local accountability for public service professionals. We will re-connect people with their public services, their local council, and their government. To achieve this radical change, we need to take radical steps in giving professionals more, better information, and the tools that help them deliver our vital public services.
In the Prime Minister’s letter last year, he committed us to a wide range of major, meaningful measures to achieve accountability through openness: details of how much civil servants are paid, every line of government spending over £25,000 and every government contract over £10,000. And that is what we have done.
Now, you have the ability to see how government spends your money, and with whom.
Now, you can read the signed contracts in full - every clause, every performance measure, every penalty trigger.
Now, you can trace how many staff at what pay are deployed to work on any area and judge whether that’s too many - or not enough.
Now, you can hold government ministers to account for the contracts they sign - including me.
This has not just been about accountability. We committed to release detailed information on what crimes have been committed where, street by street. We did: the fantastic online Crime Mapping site, police.uk, gives ordinary people the information both to protect themselves, and to pressure the police into directing resources where they are most needed.
There were over 400 million hits on the site in its first month. It is now one of a number of tools integrated into data.gov.uk that really help people understand their area and their local public services, and so make decisions about their lives - where to live, which schools to go to, even where to find cheap petrol!
Overseeing all this we have created an excellent team of advisers - the Public Sector Transparency Board who have given invaluable advice on each of these matters, challenging us to do better and acting as global ambassadors for our world-leading approach to Open Data.
There are many other examples of these great steps that we have made to make government more accountable, more understandable and more cost-effective. Inspired by Sir Bruce’s success and examples like it, today we are opening up a new chapter in public sector transparency. We are going further, embedding openness into public services:
Providing real, effective choice for people whether they are parents, patients or passengers.
Furnishing public service professionals with the comparative data to do better.
Driving a change in the relationship between users and service providers.
And powering economic growth for the country.
This morning, the Prime Minister has committed us to a new phase of transparency with a number of big changes in the way that public services are open and transparent. Each of these on their own marks a major shift of power away from the bureaucrats and to the people and the professionals in our public services, and each is a key part of giving them the tools through which they can really drive improvements in our public services. We have placed transparency at the heart of public service design.
Working with the NHS, we will release an unprecedented amount of information on services. For the first time, people and professionals alike will be able to see how their GP’s practice performs, and be able to see how their local doctor compares to others including matters like cancer survival rates and what kind of drugs they prescribe. This is a first step: we want much more information about standards in primary card to be published, because this is the data our GPs need to be the very best and it’s the data we need to make the best, most informed health choices for our families.
For each hospital, we will publish information about the complaints they receive, so that you can see what issues have affected others. For key conditions, like cancer, we will publish clinical audit information so that you can see the performance of the teams treating these conditions. This will give patients and clinicians richer, more meaningful information for making their decisions.
In schools, we will expand and improve on the information published so that parents and young people can make better decisions about which schools and apprenticeships are right for them. We will release information about each school’s effectiveness - not just overall, but on how well they teach for different ability groups in a range of subjects.
We will release anonymised information about how well students eligible for pupil premium do, so parents can see the effect that the money is having in their area. For each school we will enable you to monitor schools’ performance in depth and how it changes, and bring together all this information with spending, Ofsted judgements and others into a simple portal so parents and teachers can see exactly what is going on in one place and not have to wade through a dozen different sources.
In transport, long an area of particular concern amongst open data campaigners, government has worked with the transport industry to free up an unprecedented amount of public transport information, including: cycle routes; car parks; railway timetables and performance; and real-time congestion and traffic accidents for the Strategic Road Network - all open for free, commercial re-use. This seemingly-simple step of opening up transport data will make it easier for people to plan where to live or open up businesses. Transport is vital to our economy, and this will help stimulate growth for more of our local communities.
In criminal justice, we will publish sentencing information for each court, so you can see exactly what your local court is handing down for what crimes, and how it compares. We will also publish for the first time detailed performance information on how well each prison and probation service works to reduce re-offending rates of the criminals with whom they deal.
We will extend the excellent online Crime Maps tool to show the next steps taken of each reported crime - what actions the police took and its outcome. Together, these will for the first time help people see how individual crimes are dealt with in their local area, giving them the information they need to push for better, more effective results. As you can see, there is vast range of information that we are bringing forward so that the public can judge how well public services perform, and so that professionals can compare the services they provide with others, driving up standards and quality for us all.
The government will soon publish the Open Public Services white paper about our overall approach to public services reform, and transparency is a key part of making that reform real. Alongside this, I will publish the Transparency Strategy for consultation, at the heart of which is the concept of a right to data so citizens can easily access meaningful open data, published for free re-use in machine-ready formats. I invite everyone to have their say on how we can embed openness and transparency at the centre of how we run government for the next generation.
Fundamentally, we want to be open about what we do. Open about what we spend. Open about how public services work. Open about making them better. And so we are reforming the whole of the public sector along open, transparent and accountable lines.
What we are doing is not just a first for Britain; these commitments represent the most ambitious open data agenda of any government in the world.