Yesterday the Public Administration Select Committee put out a press release:
"The Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) today publishes the first parliamentary assessment of the idea of “user involvement” in public services, potentially a new model for public service delivery that promises improved services and greater user satisfaction."
Apparently, getting users involved at all is still an innovation in our public services.
It is important that public services be driven by users. As David Holmes, from the charity Mind, told the committee, mere consultation isn't enough:
"In our experience the reason people have started to seek user control is that the mechanisms and involvement do not seem to have brought about the changes they would like. They have been consulted but they seem to have been excluded from the real decision making..."
Holmes will find that nominal power within a system where politicians control all the levers of real power, particularly the funding decision, will be little more effective than the consultations they are designed to replace. Users of public services will only have real control when they are free to choose between a range of providers, when public services are no longer monopolies.