Beyond Williams: Public Service Leadership in Wales

In a speech for the IWA last night, Leighton Andrews says that in a time of public service reform leadership is key.

Listen to Leighton Andrews’ speech in full:

Listen to our panel’s reaction:

Over the last century, Wales provided the UK with regular examples of inspirational public service leadership.

David Lloyd George created the first system of National Insurance for those who were sick or unemployed. Jim Griffiths used his experience as a Miners’ Leader in developing the modern state benefit system, introducing the Family Allowances Act 1945, a new Industrial Injuries Act, and the National Insurance Act 1948. Aneurin Bevan brought his experience of the Tredegar Working Men’s Medical Aid Society to the creation of the National Health Service, under which over 2500 voluntary and municipal hospitals in England and Wales were nationalised and a system of general practice established across the UK, with services free for all at the point of delivery.

There are other examples. Viscount Rhondda as Minister for Food Control used his industrial experience of production and distribution to design the system of food rationing which ensured that the population was able to be fed during the First World War.

Look at the work, for example, of Elizabeth Andrews in the Rhondda, who led the campaigns for pithead baths and nursery schools, resulting in the first nursery school in Wales at Llwynypia, for clinics, for trained midwives, and indeed local telephone kiosks to ensure speedier access to services.

These were Welsh public service leaders who turned vision into delivery.

Let me at the outset reassert the primacy of politics in making decisions about our public services.

Sometimes people talk as though public service reform only sprang up in the 1980s or 1990s under the pressure of market-orientated politicians seeking to reduce the role of the state. The post-Thatcher, post-Reagan school of reformers, or subsequently the proponents of the Blair-style New Public Management reforms or the Clinton-Gore Reinventing Government programme.

In practice, public service reform has been underway ever since public services were invented.

In Wales, our traditions of community engagement in finding cooperative and mutual solutions enabled us to pioneer new approaches.

We need to retain that sense of agency, of the potential of popular control of our public services, even in the midst of austerity. In Wales, we have had debates about voice rather than choice, what alternatives there may be to contestability, how voice can realistically determine change and how it needs to be supported by meaningful data and evidence.

As we said in July in our document Improving public services for people in Wales

Our public services are an integral part of all our lives. We all rely on them in our moments of need, and they support us to maximise our own potential and to help others. Every day they help to save lives and change lives for the better. At their best, they are transformational. If they fall short, it matters. They support not just our well-being now, but also that of future generations.

We set out in that document our commitment to a culture based on a concept of ‘One Public Service’ in Wales. While the creation of a single public service organisation for Wales, covering the health service, the civil service, local government and the staff of other public bodies, including non-devolved public services, might be more an aspiration than an achievable goal, ensuring that our public services work to an active vision of ‘One Public Service’ is a realistic objective. People come into public service in Wales to make a difference. Working together we can achieve more than we could achieve as individuals. In Wales, we do believe that there is such a thing as society, such a thing as community. Those community and cooperative values underpin our notion of public service. They drive our commitment to shape our public services with the active engagement of the users of those services, involving them in the design and delivery of services, building services around the needs of the individual not the corporate demands of a particular institution.

To some extent, we have recognised the desire from public service staff, and their unions, to consider the role of One Public Service in the development of our plans for the Public Services Staff Commission. Our forthcoming White Paper on the future of local government will similarly give consideration to the planning of senior local government appointments on an all-Wales basis.

Tonight I want to talk about public service leadership one year on from the publication of the report of the Commission on Public Service Governance and Delivery. About how we are taking forward the recommendations of the Commission across the board. About the things we need to do together, collectively, to transform and deliver public services fit for the modern age, able to cope with whatever Austerity throws at us. I want to congratulate Sir Paul Williams and his colleagues on making the case for further change and starting the debate we need.

To some degree, it is fair to say that discussion of the recommendations of the Commission on Public Service Governance and Delivery has largely focussed on the recommendations about local authority mergers. I plan to say nothing more about those tonight.

The recommendations of the Commission relating to improving democratic leadership, diversity and governance of local authorities, to increase transparency and accountability, to enable them to connect better with their local communities, and strengthening the ways audit, inspection and regulation support effective democratic scrutiny to ensure performance is improved, will be dealt with in our Local Government White Paper which will be published on 3rd February.

My colleague the Minister for Health and Social Services, is taking forward the recommendations relating to integration of health and social services, and governance of CHCs.

The Minister for Natural Resources is taking forward the recommendations on the refreshed role for National Parks and the role of Local Service Boards, with the creation of statutory Public Service Boards in the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill. I am revising the National Framework for the Fire and Rescue Authorities.

My focus today is therefore on the recommendations on public service leadership and values and other recommendations which flow from those. As the Commission reported (para 1.25)

‘leadership, cultural change and values will be as important as any conclusions we have reached on structural change, or the functions, or funding and governance arrangements of any public service organisations.’

For the last decade of devolution, the Welsh Government has led on a series of programmes designed to drive public service improvement, which commenced with the publication by then First Minister Rhodri Morgan of the Making the Connections document. At the time, Rhodri said:

Our approach is based firmly on the view that the best outcomes in Wales will be delivered through collaboration and co-ordination, not competition. This fits with the nature of Wales as a small country and the people of Wales’s strong sense of ownership of their public services….we need to place citizens and communities centre stage. The empowerment of the citizen and the community will drive the improvement.

I don’t think that the approach that we take today has changed in essence from what Rhodri Morgan set out a decade ago – placing citizens and communities centre stage.

So in Wales, public service reform did not commence with the publication of the Williams Commission report.

We had the Beecham Review Beyond Boundaries, the creation of Local Service Boards, supported by generous ESF funding, the Kafka Brigade reviews of services such as those dealing with domestic abuse, the Regional Collaboration Fund, the organisation of place-based initiatives on regeneration across local authority boundaries, the City Regions programme, the Public Service Summits in 2010, the Regional Education Consortia. A variety of programmes have been based on the post-Simpson regional footprint setting out six consistent geographical areas for public service collaboration, including the Supporting People programme, local safeguarding boards, and social services commissioning have all been based on these areas. The Simpson Compact subsequently set out a number of specific actions to take collaboration on in a diverse range of areas from translation services to waste; from emergency planning to procurement. Through the ESF-funded LSB project, 38 collaborative projects were supported across Wales, and we will be publishing the evaluation of that programme at the end of this month.

In 2011 the Public Service Leadership Group was established to provide national leadership for collaboration and to drive the pace of improvement in public services in Wales, with engagement by key partners in the public service reform agenda – trade unions, the third sector, Wales Audit Office, Welsh Local Government Association, and Society of Local Authority Chief Executives. The Partnership Council for Wales provides strategic oversight of many of these initiatives.

We are now moving to put the kind of work previously undertaken by the LSBs under a statutory footing with the creation of the Public Service Boards which are being created under the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill. The PSBs will ensure that we take an integrated approach and work collaboratively to find shared solutions for people and communities.

The Bill demands that public bodies operate on the basis of long-term thinking, developing an integrated approach, a focus on preventative action, collaborative working, involving people and communities. Responsibility will lie with the Public Service Boards to ensure effective service delivery based around a specific place. We are interested in how the collective impact of different organisations together delivers better overall outcomes.

So we have had plenty of examples of how we have taken practical steps to drive forward collaboration and improvement across our public services. There is a lot of experience, and considerable opportunity for us to learn from that – both from what has worked, and from what has not worked. The reality of public service reform is that as well as learning from tried and trusted models you have to be prepared to try new approaches. Some of these will fail. So we have to be learning organisations in the public services, ready to pioneer and test and learn from both success and failure.

The demands of austerity make these challenges more urgent. We need to be more rigorous and systematic in trialing new approaches to improve services and reduce costs. Where they’re shown to work, we need to adopt and scale up at much greater pace than we have in the past. I have said often that public service organisations in my experience tend to collaborate only if they are fined, incentivised or forced to do so. The best time to collaborate of course is when public service expenditure is going up. But the reality is that institutional inertia, a narrow focus on immediate institutional needs rather than the needs of the whole system, and fragmented performance management, audit and inspection models may provoke managerial responses which do not address the needs of the whole system rather than the generous and open leadership response which is needed.

I think if we start from the perspective of a commitment to One Public Service then we need to think about the kind of leadership we require.

That means, let me say, thinking about our engagement in Wales with non-devolved services as well – a landscape whose contours may be shifting post-Silk in any case. But I have to say, having been less than impressed with our relationships with the Department for Work and Pensions since 2010 when I was Education Minister, I am finding in my new role highly positive operational relationships with the Police, Prisons, Probation and with UK government departments including the MoD, MoJ and Home Office. These public service leaders of non-devolved services are part of our delivery framework and contribute positively to our work.

As the Williams Commission report stated, ‘the complexity of these challenges requires adaptive leaders: those who can deal with uncertainty and ambiguity and are able to tackle issues where there is often no simple management solution.’

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the RSA, recently wrote about the need for ‘a qualitatively different kind of leadership, one that is based on influence and generosity, not control’, if the public domain is not to be squeezed further. A form of leadership that recognises that public service bodies can help achieve broader social goals by sharing power with service-users or helping other public service bodies achieve their goals through collaboration.

Drawing on work by Peter Senge,Hal Hamilton and John Kania of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Matthew identifies three core competencies needed by public service leaders in the future:

The ability to see the larger system beyond one’s immediate organisation, which is essential to building a shared understanding of complex problems

Second, the ability to foster deeper and more reflective conversations about problems, that enable the understanding of different perspectives

Third, moving the focus from reactive problem-solving to creating a new future together based on an alternative vision of what might be possible to create together.

If we are to build and retain trust and confidence in our public services in Wales, then we need to ensure real leadership in our public services, based on

A recognition that change has to happen with a rich level of community engagement

An openness about data and its potential to drive change

A focus on the whole system, understanding what is being done well where, helping to identify where change can truly make a difference

And we need leaders who can operate and drive change on this basis.

Some of the most inspiring changes we have seen in public service delivery have come not from the drive to force public service bodies to collaborate, but from the engagement of leaders prepared to look at the citizen’s experience of their services. So story-telling, based on individual narratives, has become important in mapping individual experiences of the whole system. We have a number of example of how individual citizen’s stories have been used to drive change in our public services. That happened with the work by the Kafka Brigade project on domestic violence in RCT in 2008, in particular abuse survivor Emma’s personal story of domestic abuse, which provided the platform for the 10,000 Safer Lives project and the current bill we have on Gender-based violence; then there is the work on missing children in Gwent; and our work on young people in danger of becoming disengaged, likely to end up as being not in education, employment or training. Seeing the service through the users’ eyes, in other words, empowers our public service leaders to drive change. In doing this we have followed through the principles of NESTA’s public service innovation cycle, beginning with the generation of an idea, testing it out, identifying principles which can be generalised and then seeking to systematise that.

We have talked a lot about collaboration. I think the success of these kinds of projects has been when public service leaders have asked a very simple question of each other: how can we help? That question, as Matthew Taylor has again identified, unleashes the generosity and optimism that brings most people into public service in the first place.

So what do we want our public service leaders to be?

Capable of taking a whole system approach based on the concept of One Public Service Wales

Generous about the contribution of other agencies to the delivery of their vision

Surveying the horizon to understand new challenges, opportunities and developments

Open with the data needed to drive performance improvement

Benchmarking themselves against the best in class, not just the best in Wales

Engaging their citizens and communities in working on solutions

Committed to learning – from their peers, from their workforce, from their communities, from others

Taking responsibility for service performance before failure becomes an issue, not waiting for audit or inspection to point it out

With the development of new principal local authorities, and statutory Public Services Boards convening all those public bodies with an interest in the wellbeing of a particular area, we have the opportunity to create collectively a new culture based on expectations of high performance and adaptability. That looks at the collective impact of different organisations working together on common problems. That seeks to learn from the best performing organisations around the world, not just in Wales. That learns from the best examples of collective impact around the world.

At a time when public service organisations all around the world are learning that the old ways of doing things are not sufficient for the future, Wales has the opportunity to leap beyond others if our minds are open to the possibility. If we want to re-shape our public services, and re-shape our localities, then we need to develop this model of adaptive system leadership across our public service leadership cadre.

In essence, we have a number of forms of leadership within our public services in Wales:

Political leadership

Executive leadership

Non-executive leadership

By political leadership I include all those who are in elected positions, from the Welsh Government to people in leadership positions within local authority cabinets.

By executive leadership, I mean those who are in chief executive or Heads of Service roles in our public services, including our local authorities, and I include professional leadership, like clinical leadership, within that.

By non-executive leadership, I mean those who chair or act as members of boards, ranging from LHBs to Natural Resources Wales, to Fire and Rescue Authorities, to colleges and universities.

This is the leadership cadre within Wales. But what do we do to develop a common understanding of the context for public service delivery in Wales? What do we do to develop common agreement on appropriate objectives, values, learning? What do we actively do to help shape understanding of the challenges facing each person in a leadership position? What do we do to ensure buy-in to a concept of a One Public Service Wales culture?

We need to explore the relationship between these different kind of public service leaders. In Denmark, the chief executives of local government organisations there have developed a Public Governance Code for Chief Executive Excellence. This makes nine key recommendations for local authority chief executives which resonate with what we are seeking to do in Wales:

Clarify your managerial space with the political leader

Take responsibility for ensuring that the political goals are implemented throughout the organization

Create an organisation which is responsive and capable of influencing the outside world

Create an organisation which acts as part of an integrated public sector

Require the organisation to focus on results and effects

Possess vision and work strategically to improve the way that your organization accomplishes its assignments

Exercise your right and duty to lead the organization

Display personal and professional integrity and

Safeguard the public sector’s legitimacy and democratic values

I hope we can learn from this in Wales. After our local government reforms, I never want to hear again about officer-led councils in Wales. Our local government reforms will be about creating a cadre of leaders who

are able to lead

have the freedom to lead

have the tools to lead

We also need to re-imagine leadership in a non-hierarchical way. Thirty years ago, I heard the Consumer Rights campaigner Ralph Nader say that the role of leaders is to create more leaders. There are leaders of change within organisations and within systems. Sometimes they are delivering changes which may not be realised by the formal organisational leaders.

Take the efforts that have been made in Cardiff Council, for example, to reduce carbon consumption. Using the CarbonCulture platform, data on energy use by key buildings in Cardiff’s public realm, including its schools, has been captured and is publicly available online and efforts to reduce energy consumption are being mapped. I have never heard this being talked about by the Council leadership, though it seems to me a good example of public service leadership and a pioneering use of open data within our public services in Wales. I know that the council sees the Carbon Culture as having been extremely effective in Cardiff. It has been used as a tool for demand management across the council. It’s also been an education tool for children, helping schools achieve green flag status through Eco Schools. I am told that the software paid for itself in approximately 9 months across the Council’s operational building estate.

We need to seek out the potential leaders of change throughout our organisations. As I found in education, leaders of change exist at all levels. Organisational leaders need to seek them out, support their work, and ensure that barriers affecting their ability to deliver are removed.

And how do our leaders learn to be leaders? Is it all ‘on the job’?

After all, no-one formally taught me how to be a Minister or before that a Deputy Minister! I know the Institute of Government is seeking to address the issue of Ministerial learning.

How do leaders of local authorities get their training?

In most professions, there is some context of professional development and leadership training that goes with that.

In the Health Service, for example, there are well-established training processes.

So what are we going to do?

First, we are establishing a Public Service Leadership Panel. This will operate as a Ministerial Advisory Group designed to

Inform and shape the public service transformation agenda

Draw on best practice

Encourage and support collaborative impact and innovation

Accelerate the shift to digital public services

This will have access to work by the Public Policy Institute for Wales, now part of the What Works network; our board on Effective Services for Vulnerable Groups; the Innovation Lab that NESTA and Cardiff University plan to establish, and the Ministerial Panel on Digital Public Services I have established jointly with the Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology.

I’d be glad to support plans from Nesta and Cardiff University to establish an Innovation Lab for public services in Wales, building on their experience in fostering innovation across the UK and the rigorous design and testing of service reforms. I want Welsh Government to work with the innovation lab systematically to develop and trial new approaches to some of the biggest challenges facing Welsh public services. But it’s not just national government that needs to step up. Councils, health boards, charities, community organisations all have a role to play in driving change and I hope the lab will build partnerships across Welsh public services to enhance our capacity for successful, evidence based reform.

We are developing work on public service values for consideration on the basis of a shared One Public Service Wales vision, drawing on best practice internationally, such as the Danish example already given.

We have, in our Public Service Academi, a major leadership development resource which can contribute to the new kinds of leadership that we require. Academi, formerly Public Services Management Wales, has done much excellent work and should be the core of our development of public service leadership in Wales.

Our objectives for Academi must be more explicit and more firmly grounded in the nature of the public service leadership which we want to develop in Wales over the next decade. That means that its programmes must be more proactive; that there must be buy-in from public service leaders across Wales to its role in leadership development; and that it should develop a prospectus of agreed and validated leadership courses, such as those delivered by other institutions, including higher education institutions within Wales which we recognise as having the necessary relevance to public service leadership development.

We are looking at the possibility of strengthening the process for senior public service appointments, including developing a common framework of principles and a potential public services appointments commission, drawing on examples that exist in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and Canada.

This means no more Porsches in Pembrokeshire. Or at least none paid for by the public purse.

In Wales, we want high-performing organisations, and so do the public. If we want the public to support public services, then we have to be focussed on excellence in delivery. As Michael Barber pointed out in his book Instruction to Deliver, the public is not impressed by adequate services.

Of course, if our focus is to be the creation of high-performing organisations, then we need, as the Commission for Public Service Governance and Delivery recognised, to simplify and clarify the expectations that we have of public service organisations. Our performance management frameworks need to be simpler. They need to be focussed on outcomes not process. We need to agree what are the right level of expectations for Welsh Government to set, and where there can be greater flexibility in performance by, for example, local authorities. We need to look at areas where we have been successful – for example, in waste recycling and in social housing quality standards – and learn from those, setting a more limited range of clear performance indicators. Again, if you look at the targets measured by the Delivery Unit in Number Ten under Michael Barber, their goals are clear and straightforward.

We also need public service organisations to adopt the most open practice in relation to the publication of data in real time. We will develop a stronger emphasis on shared services where these are meaningful, and we will drive digital solutions where appropriate.

There are no hiding places in the land of open data.

Open data

Offers insight into citizen priorities and behaviours

Makes public services accountable, without having to rely on false public sector markets

Strengthens democracy and decision-making

Helps drive performance

Helps the public understand what is best in clas

But data also provides economic growth opportunities for businesses, including start-ups, and social enterprises, as Professor Viktor Mayor Schonberger of the Oxford Internet Institute has said, government can provide a ‘data subsidy’ to start-ups and social enterprises and others pioneering new innovative approaches.

Transparency is of course a challenge to managers but is an aid to leaders, enabling them to build trust in public services by the public. If we are truly to reform public services, then we need a pull from the public as much as a push by government.

That is why the Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology and I have established our digital public services group to learn from the best in digital public service developments across the world, including in England. We should be happy to learn from the Cabinet Office inspired developments such as the UK Government Digital Service, the Open Data Institute, and the Behavioural Insights team now housed in NESTA, whose work has driven up take-up of workplace pensions and improved tax collection rates.

Again, this is about leadership.

The new lessons of Government digital services are about starting small, identifying problems early, getting user feedback quickly, evolving applications and services as you go. Acting in an agile fashion, learning the lessons of the lean startup movement pioneered by Eric Ries. Starting with Discovery days and involving users in designing programmes, this provides the opportunity for new developments at low cost. It is the end of the Grand Plan and Command and Control. Consideration of Local Digital Futures should be at the heart of local authority planning for public service delivery.

We already have some good examples in Wales of low-cost digital data services, such as My Local School, which was awarded second place in a national award by the Royal Statistical Society in 2013 in the category for public sector presentation and communication. It gets 650,000 hits a year. We have also plotted travel to work data extensively to help local authorities in planning for outcomes from the Active Travel Bill, for example. Under the Act, local authorities have to produce maps showing existing active travel routes and their plans to enhance that network. To reduce duplication and deliver economies of scale, we have established a national data management system and commissioned an initial survey of active travel infrastructure to populate this system.

The system not only holds the data, which is being collected on a consistent basis across Wales, but it can also produce the maps which local authorities are required to submit to the Welsh Government. A good example of a simple shared service.

Data can be shared in real time, of course, as the example of Ceredigion’s primary school attendance figures shows.

Making policy in the digital age does require new skills and a new more open approach. Again it is about leadership, about being open, curious, networked, collaborative and digitally engaged. Leaders need to be broadening the range of people with whom they engage, looking at the depth and quality of that engagement, drawing on the latest analytical techniques, taking an agile approach and prepared to crowd-source ideas and solutions.

I am announcing today that we will be establishing a Digital Public Services Fund with £250,000 per annum to drive new digital initiatives in the public services.

We as Welsh Government and leaders in our public services need to develop a more mature and open relationship:

With Welsh Government setting the overall objectives in a clear and limited number of policy areas, backed up by a regulatory framework to govern performance

Public service leaders taking responsibility for that within their own organisations, leading the drive for excellence, identifying best practice wherever it exists and following through on implementation

Welcoming scrutiny as an aide to excellence

Seeing audit and inspection as the backstop for performance improvement, not the main driver.

As my colleague Mark Drakeford said when publishing Ruth Marks’ review of Health Inspectorate Wales two weeks ago

We must accept that healthcare regulation and inspection can only ever be the third line of defence against serious quality failures. The first line of defence is formed by frontline professionals themselves and the second by the boards and senior leaders in our health boards and NHS trusts.

We want leaders in our public services who can link their leadership to the delivery chain which organises and provides services to the public.

I believe that our people and our communities are impatient for change.

In 11 out of 22 local authorities, tenants voted for social enterprises, some of them community mutuals, to run their housing.

In several local authorities, social enterprises now run leisure facilities.

Communities are taking control of library facilities. In some places these are community-run social enterprises or cooperatives, in others we have the examples of town and community councils running such services, able to raise additional resources to do so.

But we need to embrace these new models of service delivery and encourage people to think creatively around them, and how we can build on them.

Because community participation in design and delivery was always at the heart of the practice of the pioneers of social change in Wales. What was the Tredegar Working Men’s Medical Aid Society, after all? Community participation in design and delivery. Community control. Participatory democracy.

Wales was doing co-production decades before academics invented a term for it.

As we carry forward our work on public service reform, let us remind ourselves that in Wales we have been pioneers in community engagement, and let us look again at what can be done to ensure that the public is engaged in the modelling, management, ownership and delivery of our public services – both as individual citizens and service-users, and as members of communities.

In November I said we cannot pretend any longer that Local Government can do everything.

We believe that control over public services in a place should be democratically led, and we will retain the public sector as the primary deliverer of our priorities in Wales.

We do not believe that profit making bodies have a role to play in the delivery of local public services.

But, as I said, there will be opportunities for communities, through social enterprises, cooperatives, community mutuals to influence, and in some cases, run services.

With this in mind, we need to ask whether the current system has institutionalised politicians into the management of Councils – made them defenders of the system – rather than freeing them to lead service development on behalf of their communities.

I want to see real civic leadership with genuine engagement with backbench elected members and community activists so that power and responsibility is shared more equally to get things done.

I want citizens working alongside trained professionals. I want social innovators and entrepreneurs whose engagement can enrich provision. These individuals can directly challenge the hierarchy and the senior management. They can challenge the established way of doing things.

I also want to encourage more of those people who are active in their communities to stand for elected office. Throughout my constituency I come across community activists who would make great councillors and elected politicians.

But most of them would probably run a mile if asked to stand for public office.

We sometimes forget that we are all, at some time, politicians: in our work-places, in our homes, in our communities. The best political skills are everyday skills: the skills of dealing with power, sharing information, negotiating, managing and smoothing away conflict, determining priorities for action. Those skills happen at all levels of life. Those are positive skills – counterposed to the uses of the manipulation of power – the exploitation of weakness, empire-building, denigration of others, hiding key information, using structure and process to delay and destroy and undermine. We need leaders who will promote a more open culture in our public institutions.

I would like us to debate how we can create an escalator of activism that enables community activists on single issues to see themselves as potential leaders of change in our councils. I am sure that many do, but more could.

There is a growing momentum in Wales today, around the pressing need to increase diversity in public life.

Public life is about representation, leading by example and reflecting the views of communities into the decision making processes of our public organisations.

We want people living in Wales to feel those making decisions are connected to and have a deep understanding of their needs and challenges.’

I want to provoke a real debate about who represents us locally, how they represent us and their connectivity with the whole of the community they represent.

In other areas of the public services, we are making some progress in diversity. As my colleague Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, announced last week, for Welsh Government Advisory Sponsored Bodies, we have seen an increase in female representation from 32% in April 2012 to 50% in October 2014. Some Local Health Boards are making good progress with 3 having female representation at or over 40%. We have more to do on Executive Sponsored Bodies. We also need to improve the participation of disabled and ethnic minority board members. Worst of all are our councils, with low levels of women in Cabinets and most councillors being over 60, male and white.

We as a government are leading on this agenda. Laura MacAllister’s work in improving diversity in Sport Wales has been rolled out to chairs of all Public Sector Boards. Laura has taken forward work for us on diversity in local government too. The Welsh Government and the NHS Centre for Equality and Human Rights is taking forward a pilot programme of training, development and support for members of under-represented groups who wish to become public service board members.

This is about leadership, and our Local Government White Paper will place a duty on local authority leaders to promote diversity within their authorities.

As I said at the beginning, Wales has a strong track record of leadership in public services. We need to develop the leaders of the future. The biggest challenge facing us in our public services as we move forward is that challenge of leadership.

Our public services are determined by political priorities. Political leadership is primary. When we debate the future of our public services we must avoid sinking into the mire of a weary managerialism and remember, all of us, that the real challenge for the future is leadership that can provide a new vision.

Let me end with a quote from different Williams, the Welsh cultural critic Raymond Williams, and remind you of his words about radicalism:

‘To be truly radical is to make hope possible, not despair convincing.’

That should be the leadership vision for our public services.

Leighton Andrews speech – presentation slides

Leighton Andrews is the Minister for Public Services. This is a copy of a speech made at an IWA Debate on the 20th January 2015 at Eversheds in Cardiff.

8 thoughts on “Beyond Williams: Public Service Leadership in Wales

  1. What makes me cross is the huge salaries paid to people at the top when in their own organisations they don’t pay even the minimum wage to the people who actually deliver the services
    June Clark

  2. Well intentioned, no doubt, but Mr Andrews’ speech contains so much babble and MBA-speak (of the sort to which those of us who work in the public sector have become all too accustomed in the last twenty years), that I fear that – yet again – what we would end up with would be not ‘leadership’, but merely management.

  3. I think there is too much here to comment on. Public services have obviously developed from civic movements, and these have been diverse. Let these continue to inform our society.

  4. The problem with public sector leadership in Wales is that it is inward-looking, ignoring the global revolution in management theory that has taken place in recent years. This revolution can be summed up in one principle: the art of leadership is the art of delegation.

    The trend in Wales is in the opposite direction, towards ever greater centralisation, the latest example being the proposed local government reform, which Mr Andrews, understandably, prefers to side-step.

    Part of the reason for this is that if you give people the power to find the best way of doing things, they might use it in ways our rulers find ideologically challenging. In particular, they seem to find the idea of the public sector working with the private sector for the common good positively horrifying.

    So instead of leadership we end up with a plethora of ‘initiatives’ and a succession of superfluous restructurings that serve only to distract attention from the need for fundamental cultural change.

  5. There is a great deal to digest in one go, as Alice reminds us. The Minister presses the right buttons, and clearly does not want a Sir Humphrey Appleby culture in the public service. That culture was satirized two decades ago, but public services have moved on, as Leighton Andrews points out. However, the change has not been as fundamental as the Welsh government would like it to be.

    The government is assuming legal responsibility in a raft of areas, and political leaders have rightly asked the question as to whether or not the public service is up to the job of implementing the policies and programs under these new laws. In this respect, the Minister’s speech is a wake up call to public servants that things must and will change fundamentally……and fast.

  6. ‘Je suis Charlie’.

    But clearly such free speech isn’t supported by the IWA.

    Shame on you.

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