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News, Insights

Governing in the 21st Century: The Labour Party Conference Panel

This week we concluded our conference coverage with our panel discussion at the Labour Party Conference.

We focused on our topic, Governing in the 21st Century, with guest speakers; Jonathan Slater, former secretary of the Dept for Education; Axel Heitmueller, CEO of Imperial College Health Partners, Anna Dixon MBE, Labour PPC for Shipley, Rosie Collington co-author of The Big Con: How the Consulting Industry Weakens our Governments and Antonio Weiss author of The Practical Guide to Digital Transformation. Chaired by Jonathan Chappell, Senior Partner at The PSC. We’ll be digesting and sharing what we learned from this party conference season for weeks to come, but three top themes from Sunday’s event include:

Governing in the 21st Century: The Labour Party Conference Panel
  1. Personalisation is possible

From the evidence base informing The PSC’s emerging research, to the expertise of our panel members, there was consensus that public service must become more carefully tuned to individual preferences. From tackling recidivism among people living in prison, to getting absent children back into schools and helping people with complex long-term health conditions, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. At its more sophisticated this can include real-time data about an individual, and highly bespoke services as a result. But there are also simpler ways to add a personal touch to services in a way that also makes them more effective. ‘Personalisation’ can mean considering the steps a citizen took or will take after they interact with the service right in front of them, thereby providing a service that’s more ‘joined up’. Jonathan Slater shared the example from his past work on recidivism, where helping someone leaving prison to go straight to the job centre made a huge difference to supporting them to re-build their lives, and Antonio described how these personalized services can also be far less costly than people expect. 


  1. Regaining trust, starting from the bottom

Each panel member recognized the substantial challenge that any future government will have in terms of re-gaining trust in public services, and especially the people that make decisions about them. That said, re-building public services is a fantastic opportunity to recognize and respond to the needs of citizens in every-day moments, building trust in public institutions and those that govern from the ‘bottom-up’. Axel and Anna both described the importance of listening at a local level in order to recognize community priorities, provide freedom to public servants responding to those needs, and further pave the way towards citizens being able to trust that they’ve been heard. 


  1. Partnership working with the third and private sector 

The panel discussed just how often the third sector can play a really positive role in public service delivery. They frequently combine subject matter expertise with strong connections to the people they aim to help, and in turn often inject co-design and innovation to services that have become stuck. 

Rosie highlighted the power of procurement as a lever to effective partnerships. Recognizing the £300 billion spent by government on goods and services for the public sector, contracts with the private sector represent a huge opportunity to further promote social impact, for example by insisting on building capability-building or knowledge sharing to help public bodies to become more self-sustaining over time.


Today marks the end of the Labour Party Conference with Sir Keir Starmer's speech. Sir Keir led on housebuilding with a focus on new towns and an injection of 1.5 million homes and a pledge to 'get Britain Building again'. He highlighted non-dom tax status being a loophole and pledged to put that money back into the NHS to 'get it back on it's feet'. Other areas that were peppered throughout his content were: education - VAT being charged to private schools which will then be deployed back into other school services. Cost of living: Labour offering long term solutions. And finally, police - an investment in getting more police on the streets. 


The PSC exists to make public services brilliant, and we have really enjoyed exploring what Governing in the 21st Century looks like with all of our recent guests and panellists. Stay tuned for our roundup of all our activity. 

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