'Open public services' white paper

The coalition government set out its vision for public service reform in the white paper Open public services. It followed an article in the Daily Telegraph in which the Prime Minister, David Cameron, outlined the importance of supplier diversity and competition in public services, and the importance of increasing consumer choice.

The rationale behind a more open public service agenda was that the quality and value for money of public services would be improved if different providers were able to offer services in an open and accountable way.

The white paper set out five principles for modernising public services:

  • increasing choice wherever possible
  • decentralisation of public services to the lowest appropriate level
  • ensuring that public services would be open to a range of providers
  • ensuring fair access to public services
  • ensuring that public services would be accountable to the taxpayer.

The white paper stated: 'Too many of our public services are still run according to the maxim 'the man in Whitehall really does know best'. Decades of top-down prescription and centralisation have put bureaucratic imperatives above the needs of service users, while damaging the public service ethos by continually second-guessing highly trained professionals. The idea behind this view of the world - that a small group of Whitehall ministers and officials have a monopoly on wisdom - has propagated a lowest common denominator approach to public services... Our vision of open public services turns this presumption on its head and places power in the hands of people and staff...'


HM Government.
Open public services: white paper.
HMSO; 2011.

Cameron D.
How we will release the grip of state control.
The Telegraph; 2011.