PM's speech on Business Plans

A transcript of speech on business plans given by the Prime Minister 8 November 2010.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
The Rt Hon David Cameron

A transcript of speech on business plans given by the Prime Minister 8 November 2010.

Read the transcript:

Prime Minister

What you’ve just seen is what this government is all about.

Breaking apart the old top-down way of doing things.

Power to public sector workers.

Power to communities.

The Big Society - people playing their part to make life better for everyone.

And the Business Plans we are publishing are a big part of that.

Today I want to tell you how these innocuous-looking documents link into our vision - and how they are going to help transform our country.

Earlier this year, Nick and I set out the purpose of this government.

That is to make two major shifts in our national life.

A power shift - a radical redistribution of power from governments to communities and people…

…and a horizon shift, so that we govern for the long-term - taking the difficult decisions we need to equip Britain for success in the decades to come.

These Business Plans are key to achieving these shifts - and today I want to tell you how.

They will help us bring about a horizon shift in our political life because they change the way government works.

The last government tried to make things happen through a system of bureaucratic accountability: the Public Service Agreements, the targets…

…the whole of the public sector constantly answering to Whitehall.

There were obvious problems with that system.

It bred bureaucracy. It created inefficiency and unintended consequences. It crushed morale in the public sector.

And, perhaps less obviously, it encouraged short-term thinking.

The target culture pressured people to go for short-term wins at the expense of long-term improvements.

Today we are turning that on its head.

Instead of bureaucratic accountability to the government machine, these Business Plans bring in a new system of democratic accountability - accountability to the people.

So reform will be driven not by the short-term political calculations of the government, but by the consistent, long-term pressure of what people want and choose in their public services - and that is the horizon shift we need.

But more importantly the Business Plans will bring about a power shift by changing what government does.

For a long time, government’s default position has been to solve problems by hoarding more power to the centre - passing laws, creating regulations, setting up taskforces.

The result is that Britain is now one of the most centralised countries in the developed world.

Some might argue: that’s no problem if centralisation works.

But it doesn’t work.

It’s not efficient - because in huge hierarchies, money gets spent on bureaucracy instead of the frontline.

It’s not fair - because national blueprints which don’t allow for local solutions tend to entrench inequality.

And it’s not good for our politics either - because it creates a great distance between the people and those they elect.

But quite apart from these practical arguments against centralisation, there’s a philosophical one too.

The idea that it’s only the people at the top who have the answers is an incredibly negative view of the world and human nature.

The positive thing - the optimistic vision - is to believe that when people are given more freedom, good things happen.

It’s for all these reasons that this coalition is turning the tide.

We will be the first government in a generation to leave office with much less power in Whitehall than we started with.

We are going to take power from government and hand it to people, families and communities - and how we will do that is set out right here in these Business Plans.

Wherever we can put power directly into people’s hands, we are doing it.

That’s what our plans to give parents and patients more choice are all about - having personal control about where your child goes to school or where you get treated.

Where such direct control isn’t possible we’re bringing in other forms of democratic accountability.

In policing we are bringing in directly elected police commissioners so that local forces will be more accountable to people in their area.

In welfare we’re paying providers by the results they achieve, giving them real freedom over how they get those results.

We’re going to smash open state monopolies.

We’re going to invite new providers in.

And in one of the biggest blows for people power, we’re shining a bright light of transparency on everything government does.

Because each of these Business Plans does not just specify the actions we will take.

It also sets out the information we will publish so that people can hold us to account…

…plain-English details about the progress of the reforms and the results they are achieving.

I know some people have concerns about democratic accountability.

There are some who fear it’s too radical a change.

They say yes, it was a problem having so many targets - but when they go, how will you make sure your government is delivering?…

…isn’t there a danger that without targets breathing down your neck, Ministers will go native, the machine will slow down and nothing will actually happen?

But these plans won’t allow that to happen. 

It used to be that a Minister could set some far-off target in a blaze of publicity, get the credit for it - and then when the deadline came around a year or two later they’d left the job or no-one paid much attention.

With this you’ll be able to see month by month the progress being made - not what we’re promising will happen but what we’re actually doing to make sure it does happen.

And then there’s another concern people have - not that we’re changing too much, but that we’re not really changing things at all.

They say ‘haven’t you just scrapped top-down targets and replaced them with top-down Business Plans?’

The answer to that is absolutely not.

The previous government tried to run public services from Whitehall.
These plans are about running Whitehall effectively so public services are steered by the people who work in them, responding to the people who use them.
It is not about controlling everything from the centre - but running the centre effectively so it does what the coalition agreement says: put more power in people’s hands.
And publishing information about the progress we’re making and the effect our reforms are having is not targets, it’s just the basic information that the public needs to hold government to account.

Let me take you through how this all works in just one of the priorities in one of the documents: the rehabilitation of offenders in the Ministry of Justice plan.

The old centralised approach was to control rehabilitation from the centre, with prisons answering to thirty-three different performance indicators.

And we know where that got us: we now spend £41,000 a year on each prisoner - and within a year of leaving half of them reoffend.

Our new way is to open up prisons and probation to new providers with new ideas.

So we’ll say to our charities and social enterprises - those organisations with real expertise in getting people’s lives back on track - come in and help rehabilitate offenders.

And we’ll ask the private sector to show the benefits of a more business-like approach.

We’ll let those new providers - as well as existing ones - be free to get on with the job in hand.

And we’ll pay them by the results they achieve.

No interference from on high - telling them how to do their job.

Just real professional freedom and a commitment to rewarding them for the good work they will do.

That’s the big reform.

And here’s how we’ll make sure everything is accountable.

People will be able to go online and see if we’re doing what we’re say we’re doing.

They’ll be able to see how many payment-by-results contracts have been signed. Compare re-offending rates prison by prison. Find out how much it’s costing them. 

This is a complete revolution in how government operates and we’re applying it to every part of the public sector.

And these Business Plans don’t mean the job is done. They are just the start.

Early next year we will publish a white paper on reform to see how much further we can go - how we can put more spending power directly into people’s hands, get more independent providers running public services and pay more of them by results.

And we want you to play a big part in this.

Just as we asked public servants for ideas on saving money in the Spending Challenge, so in the coming weeks we want your ideas on how we can push power out to people.

Get your teams involved, put your thoughts forward, be as radical as you can because all ideas will be considered.

So yes, these Business Plans are interesting because they are a new way of making sure progress is made.

And yes, they’re interesting because they take forward the great ideas that are the purpose of this government - the power shift and the horizon shift.

But I think the really interesting thing, when you take all of these plans together, is the sheer scale and scope of the ambitions this coalition has set itself.

We have been given an incredible opportunity to change our country.

So together, let’s stay committed to this radical path…

…let’s be bold enough to push power out to people…

…and let’s truly make a difference.

Published 8 November 2010