will small ever be beautiful for government purchasing? 


Lost amid much of the fanfare of yesterday’s Conservative Manifesto launch yesterday were some familiar pledges on Government purchasing relationships with small businesses.

Certainly it’s not an issue that doesn’t get the mainstream political pulse racing, but is targeted at an influential and telling constituency of small business owners political parties are notably keen to court.

And understandably so.  DragonGate recently completed a piece of consultancy research on behalf of the Cabinet Office to look at barriers to help departments to identify the areas where SMEs can best add value and how Whitehall could structure contracts and procurement to enable them to compete accordingly.  More of this later.

The main lines from the ‘Forward Together’ manifesto document is that one third of all central government purchasing will come from SMEs by the end of the next Parliament and Whitehall’s buying power will be leveraged to make big contractors comply with the Prompt Payment Code on government contracts and other work as a precondition for bidding.

It is instructive to consider how, writing before the May 2015 general election, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude claimed his mission was to wrestle control away from the ‘procureaucrats’” of the £50bn money disbursed annually through civil service spending processes.

Before the end of his five year stint, the Whitehall enforcer – since elevated to the peerage – was able to boast that his target for ensuring a quarter of all civil service buying went through small to medium enterprises has been attained.  Official spending figures verified after the general election showed SMEs gained a 27% market share, equivalent to £12.1bn, by 2014/15.

Lord Maude argued transparency was key to giving small firms a chance.  “Put quite simply: SMEs can’t win contracts they don’t know about”.

He lauded a revamped Contracts Finder sitegov.uk/contracts-finder – which covered all opportunities worth more than £10,000 in central government as well as those above £25,000 in the wider public sector – as a free to use service accessible on smart phones and tablets would help SMEs collectively win further contracts, in addition to the 240,000 deals won already through the portal.

After the May 2015 general election, the Conservative government vowed to increase it spending with SMEs to 33% by 2020.  So in effect with the Conservatives also committed to scrapping the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, the pledge could, if so wished, be kicked a year or two further down the road if the Government so wished

In May 2016, however, parliamentary spending watchdog the Public Accounts Committee warned although the Government was reporting against its target for SME spending during the coalition years 2010 to 2015, it was not clear “that SMEs are better able to compete with larger providers or whether they are actually getting more government business than before”.

A recommendation was made that The Cabinet Office and the CCS (Crown Commercial Service)  “should help departments to identify the areas where SMEs can best add value and how it will structure contracts and procurement to enable them to compete accordingly”.

In March this year, DragonGate won a Cabinet Office tender to follow up this recommendation and investigate, as consultants, those sectors of purchasing with a high SME presence and low prevalence in both Government buying and the general marketplace.

The task was fourfold.  Firstly to identify where Government buying and spend with SMEs met market expectations and secondly where it did not.  Thirdly to spot areas of government business where SMEs will continue to operate within a supply chain and to make recommendations on which categories departments should focus on and earmark potential areas of SME growth within them.

Led by former Whitehall procurement expert Simon Lydiard, who was most recently head of group procurement for the Department for Transport, and ably assisted by DragonGate researcher Matthew Finucane we surveyed six major departments of state and a major civil service agency.

In doing so, we undertook a deep dive into six significant market segments: communications; construction; engineering goods; industrial services; logistics and office solutions.

The main problems from the SME perspective are as follows:

·        SMEs do not know where to find opportunities with government;

·        Contracts Finder requires a drastic overhaul and there needs to be a firmer mandate for departments to use the platform;

·        The SME community and the Government must engage better to raise awareness of commercial opportunities;

·        Whitehall must develop and effectively communicate their vision for working with SMEs to attain the target;

·        Project briefs should be made clearer and more accurate and greater attention should be paid to simplifying the bidding process;

·        SMEs in supply chains are still frequently stung by late payments from major contractors.

To overcome these issues, it became evident from our interviews with departmental procurement bosses and representatives from key trade bodies that any attempt to resolve these issues lie in the creation of a more level playing field.  The greatest card Government has to play is its comprehensive data of the market, which is not being used to its full potential.

Six of the best – DragonGate recommendations for breaking barriers to SMEs

An agenda for change that would help deliver the 33% SME spending target and overcome barriers to the civil service realising the benefits of flexibility and innovation from the nation’s smaller firms would require implementation of the following six recommendations.

1.       Communicate the strong value proposition – including cost-savings, innovative delivery and local economic benefits -  of the SME agenda to Whitehall project sponsors and commercial teams.

2.      Improve transparency by ensuring all government departments use Contract Finder. Furthermore, civil service buyers should simplify how they write up procurement opportunities so they are easily understood by SMEs and the selection criteria for finding opportunities should be made more intuitive.

3.      Departments should use available data to plan opportunities favourable to SMEs at earlier stage and resist tendency to bundle requirements together in way which reduces opportunities. Whitehall buyers should abandon traditional ‘meet the buyer’ events and make greater use of cost-effective digital engagement models through platforms such as LinkedIn – where engagement can be more accurately aligned with the SME audience and better feedback given.

4.      Greater use of purchasing systems to replace traditional fixed-term framework contracts.

5.      Increased use of Project Bank Accounts which help guarantee SMEs are paid on time by government, irrespective of the prime contractor’s model for payment terms.

6.      Make greater use of trade associations as a resource to target SMEs around future opportunities.

If these procurement lessons can be incorporated across central government, and with the willing participation of relevant trade bodies, Whitehall can be well on the way to making a truth of E.F. Schumacher’s economics axiom that small is indeed beautiful.


DragonGate spreads wings to Westminster - 11 May 2017

Public sector research experts DragonGate will be moving into Westminster offices tomorrow in a move that will enhance the company’s commercial and public service ambitions.  Please note our servers and telephone lines may be down for a short period of time.

DragonGate managing director, Nicholas Werran said: “We are proud to be moving into The Rain Cloud Victoria, the vibrant and nurturing home of the UK’s burgeoning CivTech community, where we can pursue our work to bring change to public services.

“Having made the case for the public sector to embrace modern working practices in the last year, it is only right and fitting that DragonGate should take the plunge and immerse ourselves in a fully collaborative working culture, working open-plan and under one roof with a host of exciting start ups and advocacy groups.

“Alongside these existing partners, DragonGate will also be collocated with ‘Breaking Barriers Innovations’ from these new hub premises.

“Breaking Barriers Innovations is an independent programme with the principal aim of radically improving the delivery of public services across the UK for maximum social impact.

“Breaking Barriers Innovations will work to achieve this by creating an open space for debate in which public service professionals, innovative suppliers, experts and other stakeholders can devise new and transformative public service models based on innovative place-based working.”

DragonGate’s new address and contact details from Friday 12 May will be:

DragonGate Market Intelligence
The Rain Cloud Victoria
76 Vincent Square, London, SW1P 2PD
Telephone: 0207 603 5086
Email: info@dgmi.co.uk
Web: www.dgmi.co.uk

time to capitalise on nhs estates strategy

There was a time when the intricacies of local government and NHS capital expenditure were delicacies best served up by specialist trade magazines for a discerning readership. 

It was, therefore, slightly unnerving to find the humdrum realities of council commercialism, and use of property portfolios in the dash for financial independence splashed across the Sunday Times famed Insight section.  Was borrowing from the Public Works Loan Board ever so newsworthy for a mass audience before?

But to have this followed up at the start of the week with feverish speculation around the putative involvement of hedge fund operators in the world of NHS transformation, only doubled down on a sense of astonishment.  In fairness, it is easier to see the strong news angle of Warren Buffet and his ilk bringing private capital to meet the structural requirements of the Sustainability and Transformation Plan initiative.

But is this really the case?  Sir Robert Naylor’s independent report to secretary of state for health Jeremy Hunt - NHS Property and Estates - Why the estate matters for patients - is the prime mover for the world of red braces and Mayfair mansions possibly embracing the rather less plush environs of the more than 1,200 sites owned by NHS trusts.

Sir Robert’s task was to revise for the first time since the 1962 Hospital Plan for England a scheme for rebuilding NHS infrastructure to meet modern needs in the context of the Five Year Forward View (5YFV).

According to renowned health experts The King’s Fund, who validated the report, there is no overarching estates strategy for the NHS and it remains unclear where leadership for NHS estates strategy lies – because different initiatives place responsibility in different parts of the system.  And although many local areas have established structures for place-based estates strategy and partnership working, in many areas the health sector has not been invited to the dance and its input is absent.

The report examines the scope for short-term disposals of £2bn in assets held by trusts, NHS Property Services and Community Health Partnerships over the Spending Review period to free up land for 26,000 new homes by 2020. 

The report estimates that STP capital requirements might total £10bn – a figure based on a “conservative” £5bn estimate of backlog maintenance and a similar capital sum to deliver the STP plans. 

However, it might have proved more sensible and realistic to have simply doubled the figure and added a few billion additional pounds for good measure.  Analysis of Freedom of Information requests carried out by the BMA suggested a £9.5bn price-tag for funding STPs nationally, and other commentators have hazarded figures in the ballpark of £8bn - £10bn.  The report also believes the £5bn maintenance backlog to be a ‘substantial underestimate’.

The Naylor review makes 17 recommendations to overhaul NHS property across three categories.  The main call in the first category, to improve capability and capacity, is for the establishment of a powerful new NHS Property Board, as a strategic arm’s length body with the expertise to support the STP initiative.  This would involve expanding current resources into a new national strategic planning and delivery unit to support local areas and boost capacity to deliver major projects.

So far so good.  This aligns with the recommendation to establish a national Property Centre of Excellence to support local strategy and planning made in the Breaking Barriers report “Building a sustainable future for health and social care”.

The conclusion reached by both Naylor and Breaking Barriers is the same.  Accountability and responsibility for health property strategy should be aligned, so as to manage the development and execution of a single, integrated property strategy, across health and social care at national level.

The second category of encouraging and incentivising local action advises that STPs should develop affordable estates and infrastructure plans, with a capital strategy, to deliver the 5YFV and address backlog maintenance.  Access to capital funding should depend on devising “stretching plans” which show how they would improve performance against benchmarks.  Land vacated by the NHS should be prioritised for the building of homes for NHS staff, the report further suggested.

The final category of funding and national planning makes recommendations for collaboration among all national bodies to develop a robust capital investment plan for the NHS by this summer.  Three possible sources for deriving the capital investment needed to deliver service transformation in strong STP plans are listed – property disposals, private capital for primary care and HM Treasury.

A bare sentence or two, on page 32 of the report, makes suggestions on private finance as a way of delivering health facilities without adding to public borrowing or the costs and inflexibility of previous PFI and LIFT schemes.   “However, the current low rates of return and the low risk profile of NHS investments means that there is likely to be no shortage of private capital finance to the NHS,” the report states.

How this has been conjured into visions of hedge fund tycoons stealing a march across Trafalgar Square from their Mayfair mansions to Richmond House in Whitehall is a mystery of the journalistic arts.  Perhaps, however, the press attention might serve to focus minds at Horse Guards Road that the £325m promised at the March Budget to fund trailblazing STPs over the next three years might not be quite enough cash to cut the transformation mustard.

To incentivise local autonomy against a backdrop of devolution, the report rows back from the establishment of a centralised management function for the NHS estate run through a single entity – as is the case in many large private sector organisations.  The fear of massive structural reorganisation and need for primary legislation seems to have shot this fox.  Instead NHS providers will keep their high degree of independence over estates management – but will be subject to behaviour change in the form of increasingly tweaked incentives to guide their investment, purchase and disposals of property, to deliver the 5YFV agenda.

In common with all national property initiatives, the new NHS estates strategy risks stoking tensions between localist and top-down agendas.  Tensions between the devolutionary drive for flexible, place-based change and top-down diktat for purchasing and contracting arrangements that promise economies of scale.  If handled dynamically, like the ‘tight-loose’ model introduced by Francis Maude for Whitehall contracting, the tensions have the potential to be value creating.  It might be just be the health service’s ticket to the dance with local authorities and the wider public estate.

However, any attempt to fudge the place-based element, for example by isolating central government property needs into hub arrangements that would separate them from the wider health community, would likely endanger the ethos and aims of the project.

In the words of Mad Men’s Don Draper: “This isn’t a strategy but two different ideas with the word 'and' joining them.”

Naylor’s review also sees scope for further focus on back office efficiencies, in line with the Carter Report recommendations to consolidate and rationalise the NHS administrative estate – potentially by working with the wider public estate around government hubs to unlock higher savings.

Another progressive facet of the report is its assessment of the potential impact of technology to influence the NHS estate of the future.  The report urges the Department of Health to commission a study to evaluate the future impact of digital strategies might have in reducing the number of buildings in the NHS.

This aligns well with the report on next steps on the Five Year Forward View (5YFV) programme – a plan setting out how practical improvements in prized areas – cancer, mental health and GP access - could be made while transforming the delivery of care to ease pressure on acute services.

With the NHS under pressure the 5YFV next steps also details an accelerated drive to improve efficiency and use of technology to deliver better care against the constraints of rising demand and flatlining budgets.

Of particular note, this plan envisages the role of digital innovation to integrate care and support the sustainability of the overall health service through the following initiatives: -

  • Establishment in spring 2017 the NHS Digital Apps Library – an initial offering of 20 app services across three tiers of application: ‘NHS approved’ with a NICE approved evidence base for helping people manage and improve help; ‘NHS connected’ apps tested and approved for NHS systems allowing users to download information from NHS systems and ‘Health apps’ a directory of general health apps.
  • Launch by September 2017 of a new academy to train next generation of Chief Information Officers and Chief Clinical Information Officer – seeking to align digital tech with business and clinical needs.
  • Examination of digital contribution to research and ability to collect, aggregate and analyse the data generated by the NHS to deliver healthcare aims and help, through interoperability, underpin the NHS and wider life-sciences strategies.
  • Work throughout 2017 to design online triage services that allow patients to notify their symptoms and receive either tailored advice online or a call back from a healthcare professional. Apps, web tools and interactive avatars will be tested to define the best approach so that by December 2017 all areas will have an NHS 111 online service that connects to local Integrate Care Units.
  • Benchmarking referral from GP practices using CCG digital dashboards and new tools from NHS Digital;
  • Investment in mental health technology;
  • Collecting fees from patients outside EEA countries and aiding eligibility.

DragonGate will shortly be publishing the findings of a roundtable event we held for Sopra Steria into how digital innovation could help underpin the future of STPs – examining the role of redesigned services, patient apps and better use of health data to deliver significant upstream savings, commercial revenue streams and improved health outcomes.


Is Amazon a prime model for delivering digital health innovation?

The Breaking Barriers study into health and care integration ‘building a sustainable future for health and social care’ was launched at a London summit on 28 June 2016, less than a week after the historic Brexit vote.  It was with neat symmetry that a follow up roundtable workshop was held in the heart of Westminster yesterday, at the very time as the letter marking the UK’s formal departure from the EU was handed over.

The roundtable on the future of the Sustainability and Transformation Plans, chaired by Lord Patel of Bradford, involved a panel of experts drawn from the NHS, health regulatory bodies, local government and service and data analysts from commercial partners Sopra Steria.

Digital innovation has been earmarked as an area where the health service can bridge the gap between inexorable public demand and straitened financial resources.

Digital public services have always been subject to invidious and seemingly unattainable commercial comparisons and benchmarks from the year dot.

Think back to the recent past of the late ‘90s dot.com era.  Here untold billions were raised in IPO offerings and thrown in the general direction of plausible start up entrepreneurs, many of whose ambitious business plans were built on foundations of wishful thinking at best. 

But there was money aplenty to make the first wave of mass-consumer targeted websites look and feel as good as a dial-up Internet connection could deliver.

In those days the registry of UK Government websites was maintained within the walled garden of ‘open.gov.uk’ – an unwelcome hangover from John Major’s administration that had outstayed its welcome into Blair’s cool Britannia.

From where came the pre-millennium cry, why can’t the UK e-Government mirror the ease and benefits of ‘lastminute.com’, collate interesting location data like ‘upmystreet.com’ or allow for ease of transaction and procurement like Amazon.com?

In the intervening years of digital, mobile and social media revolution, the names may have changed, but Amazon, the shape-shifting ‘everything store’ remains a strong point of comparison for government digital services.

So it was intriguing to hear a panel of health and care experts assembled at a ‘Breaking Barriers’ roundtable in Westminster yesterday laud the ambition of building on the Sustainability and Transformation Plans agenda to establish an Amazon-style marketplace for personal health and care.

It is evident that the Sustainability and Transformation Plans could harness and drive digital innovation to help overcome barriers to integration of health and social care and improve standards of delivery - in the face of known financial and demographic pressures.

A consensus swiftly emerged that driving digital innovation is not about technology.  Unlike the dot.com era, the tools are proven and are readily available. 

Digital innovation is primarily an organisational change issue, not a technology conundrum to be solved. Success in this arena is limited only by the ability of the NHS to transform itself - while in the throes of a chaotic funding context and in fulfilment of the Five Year Forward Vision.

As health secretary, and informed perhaps by his successful business experience as founder of innovative publisher ‘Hot Courses’, Jeremy Hunt has come to the fore in promoting digital as a tool to drive improvements across the health service. 

He may be excused in not having innovation as necessarily the top item of his list.  Since the ongoing financial woes of the NHS show the existing way of doing things isn’t sustainable, a real opportunity presents itself to embed dramatic digital reconfiguration over the next decade.

An open system marketplace like Amazon would make health commissioners think like retail and logistics experts about the consumer health experience, one contributor noted.  Indeed, one of the biggest current growth streams for Amazon is from people aged over 90 who are using electronic means to manage aspects of their healthcare.

NHS procurement is bedevilled by instance of vast local variation in purchases of commodity products – 40% differentials on Deep Vein Thrombosis stockings from one trust to another are nothing unusual.  But by bringing all health providers together in an open, transparent marketplace, the thinking is that commercial negotiations can be funnelled through the technology to the price benefit of NHS purchasers.

A proto-market revolution is already tentatively taking place around Personal Health Budgets.  Here the buying of wheelchairs has become a trial area in which the market for goods is forcing providers to think more about the opportunities for greater forward planning and patients see greater power and choice.  Health economies can be plugged into this, and schemes such as care-banking are ripe to be readily transferred into such an open marketplace.

The use of Amazon’s electronic assistant ‘Alexa’ has proven their worth in giving lonely people suffering from isolation not just companionship but access to local public services.  In practice, connecting devices to big data sets in complex environments is a bigger challenge than figuring out voice automation.

Another participant stated that if digital innovation is so value-creating and cost effective, digital change programmes – which don’t require huge amounts of funding - should be undertaken within the financial year.  We should not allow finance to be used as an excuse.

However, it was noted that as public sector providers, there has to be an ethos of public service value creation, and the question must be raised about what the public sector ethos could bring to the table in running health marketplaces.

And given the immediate cash pressures on the NHS, it must be understood that innovation won’t be an overnight fix and may require three or four years for profound service changes to manifest.  How do public service professionals create an environment in which innovation can be fostered and the freedom and headroom to do so exist?

This seems a political and policy problem that will require more than a one-click solution, to say the least.

DragonGate will produce a report on digital innovation in health based on the roundtable debate for release in April. For all inquiries please contact Matthew Finucane: matthew.finucane@dgmi.co.uk – 0207 603 5086

Breaking Barriers - doing it justice

The recent Breaking Barriers 'Doing It Justice' report into the potential of the devolution agenda to drive transformation of the criminal justice system mapped a 'whole-place' based path to dynamic reform.  A video summarising the summit and its outcomes is now available.

clean break for renewable future

Business Secretary Greg Clark has recently insisted any “successful industrial strategy has to be local”.  

Seen through the prism of the emerging national plans to rebalance the post-Brexit economy, place-based growth doesn’t come any more linked to geography than North East Lincolnshire’s bold aspiration to be a national standard bearer for the low carbon and renewables industry. 

North East Lincolnshire Renewables

As part of this aspiration, we held a roundtable discussion on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council and ENGIE yesterday (22nd March 2017) in London, to explore how to turn this aspiration into action.

Participants were a select group of experts drawn from central government, the energy industry, providers and institutional investors.

Arising from this discussion came three fundamental messages for North East Lincolnshire, and other local areas, to hear. 

The first message is that local areas and industry must work together to proactively and powerfully articulate and promote the importance of low carbon and renewables in the halls of Westminster and Whitehall.  

Getting Whitehall and Westminster to listen, so officials and ministers can fully understand the economic and social value of supporting and investing in low carbon and renewables is one necessary step. But the kind of self-interested, shop window dressing familiar to inward investment pitches in former years is no longer good enough.

Instead, given the interdependent nature of supply chains within and across industry sectors, areas must explain a local collaborative approach to growth. This means an approach and a unique proposition that shows the functional economic area can complement and build with other parts of the country, in order to compete globally.

Connected to this is the second message that local leaders need to ensure the local community benefit from the growth engendered by low carbon and renewable energy schemes. 

The key? Generating local value. 

As North East Lincolnshire leader, Cllr Ray Oxby told Utility Week after the event “We used to be the world’s biggest fishing port, but there’s a community that needs a sense of aspiration and we are trying to use the opportunities that renewable energy brings to raise that aspiration”. 

Energy in general offers this potential, offering a catalyst for wider transformation and investment in local areas. 

This is only achievable, however, if you take a holistic approach to energy locally, including taking actions inclusive of power, heat and transport; this, the third message. 

The development of any new industry requires additional skills and labour to match. In turn this will require suitable accommodation and access i.e. roads, rail and broadband. Therefore a holistic approach to low carbon and renewables growth plans that include housing, transport and other supporting infrastructure is a foundation of success. 

With several key companies are involved in the region, including DONG Energy, Siemens and Eon, North East Lincolnshire Council has ambitious plans to make the Humber, and Grimsby in particular, the UK capital of the low carbon and renewable energy industry. 

The roundtable also heard that the council is also looking to hold a summit up in Grimsby for the low carbon and renewables industry in the summer.

Called Clean Break, this inaugural national event aims to bring together national leaders, influencers and experts with local politicians and captains of industry to help shape the future direction of sustainable energy supply.

Clean Break will showcase North East Lincolnshire Council's vision for establishing a world class renewables industry, and they will be sharing their roadmap for achieving these goals, highlighting opportunities - both immediate and strategic - for private and public sector partners to become involved in.

Organisations taking place in the roundtable included;

Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult

Energy Systems Catapult

Nordic Heat

Innovate UK

DONG Energy UK

Energy UK

Infrastructure & Projects Authority

Green Investment Bank

Renewable UK

Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy

Department for International Trade

Energy Institute



North East Lincolnshire Council


Nichols Group




Spreadsheet Phil excels in pre-Brexit Budget

The Chancellor was very keen at the outset, of what he hoped would be the final Spring Budget for some time, to dampen expectations.  Citing the example of the last Chancellor to propose abolishing this fiscal event, his ill-favoured predecessor as chancellor Norman Lamont, did the trick.

Lord Lamont was caught out as the music stopped in September 1992, at another time of turmoil in our island nation’s dealings in continental affairs, when speculator George Soros oversaw sterling’s ejection from the European Rate Mechanism.

Nobody would ever suspect Mr Hammond of gaily echoing Edith Piaf’s ‘Non, Je ne regrette rien’ in a bath time soak, of expecting to see the green shoots of recovery or defiantly baiting the public with ‘yes it hurt, yes it worked’ praise of fiscal masochism – let alone mysterious receipts for purchases at a local branch of the off-licence Threshers.

Weighing in at a bantamweight 68 pages from front cover to appendices, the Treasury red book for the Spring 2017 Budget contains no howlers or self-inflicted booby traps to match the infamous 2012 ‘Pastygate Budget’.

It did what it was trailed to do.  It calmed nerves on the eve of next week's Article 50 triggering of Brexit and bought some time to quieten growing concerns over adult social care funding and business rates revaluation.

Business Rates

For the latter, to assuage the howls of anguish arising from the overdue revaluation of business rates, local authorities now have a £300m fund to target discretionary relief.  We also have yet another business rates consultation in the offing, to add to the recent litany of consultations on moves to 100% retention, fair funding and revaluation.

Social care funding

Some £1.2bn of the extra social care funding has been front-loaded to 2017/18.  This averages out at approximately £8m for each of the 152 English social care authorities.  Given the scale of the problem and the size of the cash on offer, there will be an onus of putting this money to good use on transformational schemes that can build the capacity to head off demand, prevent escalation and upstream spend. 

Mr Hammond threatened to enforce measures to ensure more joined up working among the 24 local authorities he said were causing half of all delayed discharges.

As an issue to be debated yet further, social care funding will be subject to a forthcoming green paper on devising a strategic approach to the long-term challenges.

Sustainability Transformation Plans

To promote financial sustainability in the health service, some £325m is on offer to fund capital investment needs of those Sustainability Transformation Plans (STPs) ‘with the strongest case to deliver real improvements for patients’.

The Treasury will work with the Department of Health over the summer to prioritise STPs, ahead of announcing a multi-year capital programme come the Autumn Budget.  However, this allocation for the most advanced STPs is a fraction of the £9.5bn capital outlay the BMA has calculated would be necessary to deliver the plans, and the argument will be made that it is unfair to support only the strongest health economies.

Use of health service property will also be considered in these value for money tests, and officials will also consider, when making investment decisions whether local NHS areas are playing their parts by raising proceeds from sales of unused land to reinvest in the health service.


During the latter years of George Osborne’s chancellorship, it became customary for speculation to run wild as to what devolution deals might be signed off ahead of a major fiscal event to give devo the big mo.

But there was scant evidence in the red book that we are seeing any attempt to defibrillate, what Local Government Association chairman Lord Porter has already termed, the dead corpse of devolution as was.

In fairness, there is the small matter of the six direct elections for Combined Authority mayors this May as part of Government’s plans to “bolster the regions” and overcome “local productivity barriers”. 

There was confirmation that London Mayor Sadiq Khan had struck a memorandum of understanding to devolve a locally-delivered criminal justice system, to grant the capital more powers to tackle traffic congestion and explore new ways of funding infrastructure.

In parallel with local business charges, London boroughs will examine moves to secure greater local influence over careers and employment support services, and the GLA and London Councils will also work to make the most of the apprenticeship levy with local employers.

In emulation of what Greater Manchester has achieved, there is scope for London to secure a memorandum on health and social care, while the Greater Manchester Combined Authority is involved in talks on future transport funding.

All this and the Midlands Engine Strategy to be unveiled tomorrow.

Industrial Strategy

Industrial Strategy has, to some commentators, the capacity to enfold and reinvigorate the stalled series of devolution deals.  And many of the announcements in the Budget advanced steps outlined in the Autumn Statement and January’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper.  

As such, many were retreads from the National Productivity Investment Plan – the £270m cash pot for disruptive technologies, bio-technology, robotics and driverless vehicles.

To better connect the nation, the chancellor extolled a £16m fund for a hub project to drive 5G mobile phone networks and £200m for full fibre broadband – which could directly connect public sector buildings such as schools and hospitals to connect more homes and businesses.

To help unclog crowded roads, local authorities will be able to competitively bid from a £690m funding pot – of which £490m will be available by early autumn.

Education and Skills

Writing ahead of the Budget, prime minister Theresa May spoke of ensuring businesses had ‘the future workforce to succeed and support a Modern Industrial Strategy that spreads growth and prosperity to all sections of the country’.

But she stressed the need for ‘ambitious and far-reaching reform’ to pluck the UK from its lowly 16th out of the world’s 20 leading developed economies in delivering technical education.

The Sainsbury reforms aim to give parity of esteem to technical education through the further education route and to streamline a haphazard system of 13,000 separately recognised qualifications with “T-Levels”, 15 career routes aligned to good quality work placements.

With a nod to yesterday’s launch of the RSA report, Mr Hammond said: “Investing in skills and education is the key to inclusive growth, to an economy that works for everyone’.

He said the £500m investment in “game-changing reforms” would see the amount of hours 16 to 19 year old technical students increase by more than 50%, pledging a high-quality 3 month work placement for every student to make them genuinely “work-ready”.

In addition to the headline-grabbing announcement of £320m over this Parliament to extend the free schools programme and fund the creation of up to 140 autonomous schools, a further £216m is earmarked for additional investment in school maintenance,

Central Government – efficiency and retrenchment

Raising the sceptre of the national debt stacking up at £1.7 trillion, annual debt relief of £50bn exceeding total combined budgets for police and the military and a £100bn increase in forecast borrowing compared with Budget 2016, the Chancellor firmly stated all today's spending decisions would be funded.

As a downward trajectory, government spending has decreased from 44.9% of the national economy in the first year of the Coalition in 2010/11 to 40% in 2015/16 – a share often seen as the golden mean by former Conservative chancellors. Most notably, and ironically, this was the settled view of the new Father of the House, the Brexit-busting Kenneth Clarke, Lamont's successor as chancellor, whose firm control of the Exchequer was one of the few bright spots in John Major's beleaguered administration.

However, public spending is on course to decline to around 38% of GDP by 2020/21.  With spending on welfare and pensions racketing up, this can only be achieved through the  suppression of resource budgets through a choking of Departmental Expenditure Limits - forecast to increase by a mere £14bn from £305bn in 2016/17 to £319bn in 2021/22.  The financial pain for unprotected departments, and one thinks especially of the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Home Office, will be acute.  The problems posed for delivering quality public services in the face of continued retrenchment set to last a decade were well put recently by the Institute for Government and Cipfa.  Performance evidence shows this trajectory had already run out of steam by the time of the 2015 Spending Review.

To forestall the inevitable questions of how to do more with less of less, that old standby of the Whitehall Efficiency Review has been brought out again. Some £3.5bn in resource savings will be sought by 2019/20, of which £1bn is to be reinvested in priority areas.  Tony Blair’s former delivery guru Sir Michael Barber will work alongside the review to help embed a culture of efficiency across government, by overseeing incremental and measurable year-on-year improvements to public service delivery. 

Expect a progress report on this by the autumn, including means to incentivise efficiency and the ‘use of analytical frameworks to guide public spending choices’.

As a final note, it seems that other old standby of departmental underspends will account for some lower spending in the near term.

Underspends have in recent years been driven by fear of missing Parliament’s requirement for departments not to exceed end-of-year spending totals and by encouragement from the Treasury.

But as the National Audit Office has previously warned, underspends have not improved the quality of financial management in Whitehall, and a tendency for departments to push through rapid and late shifts of funding to mask bad forecasting has been clocked by the spending watchdogs.

How's the water, fish?

How's the water, fish?

Public sector relocation- breaking the goldfish bowl


In 2004 municipal leaders in the North Italian town of Monza enacted the so-called “Goldfish law” - which prohibited owners from keeping their pet fish in curved goldfish bowls. The reasoning being that, “a fish kept in a bowl has a distorted view of reality...and suffers because of this".

In the same year Gordon Brown greenlit the Lyons Relocation programme- a programme to move 20,000 civil servants away from Whitehall and into the regions – a process partly driven by cost savings and regeneration but also to forge a closer connection between policy bodies and the communities they serve.  With the possible compassionate impact of putting civil service goldfish into tanks that would allow a less rounded, but more real understanding, into the impact of national policy decisions at the grass roots.

Since the reversal of the 2004-9 relocation programme the current plans for central government activity have focused upon estates and business modernisation with all future planning fixated in London and only the most metropolitan of the regional capitals.

Current strategy is epitomised by HMRC’s Building Our Future (BoF) programme.

BoF aims to rationalise approximately 170 tax centres into 13 super-hubs and four specialist sites -  and has the ability to further destabilise fragile economies who have been long term bases for the department such as Southend on Sea (1,200 FTEs), Bradford (2,000 redundancies expected by 2021) and Sunderland (3,030 FTEs).

This is but one example of the rationalisation plans taking place across the 28 Government Departments supervised by the property focused Government Property Unit (GPU).

The current Civil Service agenda for modernisation shows little confidence in the skills, quality of lifestyle and place-based opportunities that non-metropolitan locations can provide.

This is despite the fact that historically the UK has entrusted its signals intelligence Headquarters to Cheltenham (GCHQ), Government statistics and the manufacture of its currency to South Wales (ONS and the Royal Mint in Newport and Cardiff respectively) and the weather forecast (Met Office) to Devon.

The impact of basing these stand-alone quangos in relatively remote, non-metropolitan locations has not diminished returns in any way and has delivered disproportionately positive economic impacts to their localities. Interestingly, each of these relocations has resulted from laissez-faire business planning by the respective agencies, and not as a consequence of central direction.

Despite former Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude having promised a ‘Bonfire of the Quangos’ on behalf of the then Coalition, since  2010 every newly formed Quango and Agency (there have been 38 in total) from the Green Investment Bank to NHS Property Services has been headquartered in London.

This includes the Government Digital Service (GDS), whose very mantra is “Digital by Default”- that the public sector should be able to deliver services from anywhere on the planet. The circular argument is that new Government activity must be sited where existing Government and FTSE 100 private sector stakeholders are already. 

This results in new offshoots of Government and private sector HQs cramming themselves ever closer to the ‘black hole’ of Whitehall - which is beginning to creak under the weight of its compressed mass - all the while competing with a vastly overheated central London recruitment and property market.

The evidence for this is striking. Since the global downturn every region across the UK has seen civil service numbers drop as both a percentage and as an overall number – apart from London where the civil service has risen and become in effect a high-growth sector.

Location is not just about what the regions are missing, it also contributes to the closely confined mindset that imprisons the mandarin away from place-based thinking, genuine partnership working as opposed to diktat and fuels inter-departmental turf wars.

The current property vision espoused by the GPU is for a network of no more than 20 super-hubs to cover all Government departments – with the gravitational well still firmly set in London. The remainder are to be no more than a five-minute walk from train terminals of regional centres such Leeds, Manchester, and Birmingham - clustered in barracks of other civil service agencies with no involvement from the wider public sector, including from local government.

This creates the depressing prospect that the majority of the future civil service workforce will spend their time working in super clusters of other civil servants and alternately ploughing through spreadsheets and position papers on train journeys that will deposit them to other sanitised, identikit environments positioned close enough to train stations to avoid the general public and certainly wider public services. 

Effectively, as a form of inward investment, public sector relocation can have a significant impact on local economies. For instance, the relocation of parts of the BBC to MediaCityUK in Salford has not just regenerated the area, but also attracted its supply chain and similar businesses to co-locate. Public sector relocation brings with it a substantial multiplier.

Similarly, the relocation of a significant part of the Ministry of Defence to Abbey Wood, Bristol some 20 years ago has attracted several thousand private sector jobs.[1] It also creates significant long-term efficiency savings, since office floor space is generally much cheaper outside of London.

We believe public sector relocation should form a distinct part of the industrial strategy, catalysing thematic clustering in a number of places across the country.

As part of this process, places should be proactive in establishing public service hubs for parts of the public sector to relocate to. For instance, in a joint venture with the developer Carillion, Sunderland City Council is speculatively redeveloping new office space at the former Vaux brewery site.[2]

Because the upfront cost of relocation is expensive – though ultimately repaid within several years in most cases – places may also be required to make some contribution, be that through capital funding, land or the management of the planning process.

As a guiding rule, Government should only relocate public sector functions to areas with a critical population mass of 100,000, to sites within close proximity of a railway station and where local labour supply can meet recruitment needs (primarily in administrative support and junior managers).[3] Furthermore, an economic deprivation factor should be embedded within any new strategy.

It is our contention that whilst the civil service are being increasingly isolated in the name of “business transformation” a very obvious opportunity for reinvigorating communities and developing genuine partnership approaches to place is being missed. The current strategy of creating superhub goldfish bowls – may join up central government and enable business transformation- but will provide little perspective between the centre and the communities they serve.

Furthermore, where we suggest in the relocation of government departments, only civil servants who have face-to-face interaction with ministers should remain in Whitehall. For organisations such as NDPBs, pied-a-terre spaces should be provided for senior staff who need to interact with senior civil servants, ministers and other politicians.

[1] Sourced from interviewee.

[2] Sunderland Echo (2014) - £100million redevelopment project gets underway in Sunderland

[3] From private analysis prepared by DragonGate.


Breaking the cycle of 'crisis, cash, repeat'

Last week the joint Institute For Government /Cipfa performance tracker took advance aim at how HM Government and the Treasury assess public spending choices ahead of Wednesday's Budget.

With its call of "crisis, cash, repeat," their report argued the 2010 Spending Review austerities had succeeded in balancing budget cutbacks while maintaining quality of public services, but warned evidence shows this trajectory had already run out of steam by the time of the 2015 Spending Review.

Looking at criminal justice, the study pointed to official figures showing violence in prisons have increased sharply since 2014, with assaults on staff rising by 61% in two years. The recent Breaking Barriers 'Doing It Justice' report into the potential of devolution agenda to drive transformation of the criminal justice system mapped a whole-place based path to dynamic reform. https://lnkd.in/drCuVHY

See report author Rt Hon Hazel Blears summarise the findings of the Breaking Barriers paper in this video we prepared earlier: https://lnkd.in/dBRbBay

Rt Hon Hazel Blears, co-author of Breaking Barriers 'Doing It Justice' report explains the report's findings.

And justice for all

Posted: 23 February, 2017

Nothing less than a ‘whole-place’ pooling of public service budgets and devolution of criminal justice system powers to local level can create the conditions for community transformation, argue former communities secretary Hazel Blears and Lord Patel, chairman of the Mental Health Act Commission.

Reform of the Criminal Justice System has failed to deliver the necessary improvements in safety and security. As currently constituted, the system is not geared towards turning around the lives of offenders in sufficient numbers, nor effectively preventing individuals offending in the first place.

The impact of this failure is felt far beyond the offenders themselves. The human and financial cost to their victims, their families, their local communities and the wider public means the cost of failing to improve how the system treats offenders is no longer affordable.  

These were the main findings of our report, entitled ‘Doing it Justice: Breaking Barriers to Criminal Justice Transformation’, which was prepared in advance of Greater Manchester’s groundbreaking deal to repatriate responsibility for criminal justice.

We identified three main barriers that central government, local government, Civil Service and key criminal justice agencies must be prepared to overcome if they are to realise the benefits and opportunities that could come from greater devolution of the Criminal Justice System:

  • The need to reduce tensions between central government and local control of services;
  • Increasing capacity to drive innovation; and
  • Ensuring greater integration between criminal justice and other areas of the public sector with the greatest potential to drive long-term change, such as education and employment, health, particularly mental health, substance use and welfare

Based on the findings of a high-level review, which took soundings from more than 40 organisations including government, prisons, think tanks and bodies from the voluntary and commercial sector, the report outlined five areas for urgent transformation.

These included:

  • Co-commissioning and design of services to drive place-based transformation;
  • Co-production to encourage public engagement and new ways of working;
  • Creating a life opportunities approach to preventing reoffending based on recognising the life potential of offenders;
  • Better use of digital technology and data analysis to support rehabilitation;
  • Devolution of leadership and workforce development

There is no single factor or silver bullet to deliver change and transformation to a Criminal Justice System which costs the taxpayer £17bn annually, let alone reducing the staggering £124bn estimated annual economic costs of violent crime in the UK.

Rather, we see that a complex interplay of cultural, economic, organisational and historic factors block innovation and prevent much-needed integration. The five interdependent building blocks for transformation have the potential to deliver the type of whole-system change that cuts costs, ensures safety and positively changes the lives of offenders and improves safety for communities.

Aligning strategy and finances at the centre with the ambitions and strategies for devolution and place-based public reform, as is being attempted in Greater Manchester, is a good starting point.

It is to be hoped that after May’s polls, all six directly-elected mayors will follow Greater Manchester’s lead in adding criminal justice and community safety to their devolution deals.

Local areas will need support from central government to integrate criminal justice services, and combined authorities in this context must be seen as the natural leaders for driving systemic transformation.

When viewed through the prism of collaborative working across the health, education, housing and welfare system, the possibilities for public value creation in driving radical change across criminal justice system represent a once in a lifetime opportunity.

We firmly believe that devolution is the best way to integrate services, which have been co- designed and produced using budgets and powers that have been properly devolved to reduce the human and financial costs of offending. 

But to work, this must be a full-blooded exercise in devolution, involving financial freedoms and powers to shift the aggregated power of pooled public service budgets to engineer transformational whole-place change. Anything less is mere decentralisation: a helpful step in the right direction, but one that would not do full justice to ensuring the safety of local communities.

This article appeared in Public Sector Executive: http://www.publicsectorexecutive.com/The-ravens-daily-blog/and-justice-for-all


Converging Agendas - Inspiring Leadership for World Class Welsh Public Services 

Posted 10th February 2016

The publication this week of the Government Transformation Programme has rebooted, in the aftermath of Brexit, Whitehall’s own agenda for public service reform and efficiency. 

Of course, much more has changed since the time Francis Maude led the charge of Coalition cash crunching.  Lest we forget, the 2010 outline for instilling commercial efficiency into the heart of Government was authored by one Sir Philip Green, then seen as a commercial “push and go” man Whitehall could learn from – and not the panto villain who took BHS from the Great British high street.   

In those heady days, great attention was paid to the monthly progress reports each department of state was mandated to publish online, with journalists keen to uncover the slightest news of slippages and delays.

Six years down the line, it all looks a lot different.  This isn’t necessarily entirely down to the any- colour-as-long-as-it’s-black identity of all Government websites, courtesy of the award-winning Government Digital Service (GDS).

The digital by default agenda for public services still has more road to travel, and the relocation of central government bodies and functions to parts of the country that would benefit from skills clustering has taken on a whole new lease of life courtesy of the Government’s Industrial Strategy.

The downsizing of the public estate, which has released just under £1bn of sales receipts in 2015/16, has played out against an historic shrinkage of the public sector workforce.  Since 2010 staff numbers have decreased by around one million, rebalancing the share against the national total to less than one-in-five.

Steady reductions in central government headcount have firmly pushed staffing levels comfortably below any level since World War Two.  This staffing cull, particularly among the senior ranks, has undermined the functioning of institutional memory across many departments.  And all at a time the civil service’s resilience to accomplish the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, the biggest peacetime challenge it has ever faced, is being questioned.

In his speech to the think-tank Reform, Cabinet Office minister, Ben Gummer, stressed civil service productivity and morale and engagement had actually increased during this period of workforce cuts.

He cited the abolition of many non-departmental public bodies in Mr Maude’s periodic bonfire of the quangos as a factor that had led to more focused, collaborative and joined-up style of working.

Collaborative leadership will be a key theme for the Converging Agendas round table discussion taking place in Cardiff on 30 March.

The impetus for reinvigorating Welsh public services through digital transformation has been sharpened, if anything, by the inability to push through an amalgamation programme to cut the number of Welsh councils from 22 to 8.

In this context, the questions which the Welsh Government’s Digital First strategy has identified - infrastructure, inclusion, skills and digital leadership – represent if anything a steeper set of challenges.

Not a single Welsh local authority was asked to participate in the GDS’s Verify programme.  Raising Digital Confidence, validating the resilience of online services in Wales will, therefore, be a necessary first step to putting digital transformation at the centre of service reform.

Transforming the user experience, putting users of public services at the heart of service design and sharing and getting the most out of improved digital assets will also be key to innovation.

For more information about Converging Agendas – Inspiring Leadership for World Class Welsh Public Services, please contact Helena Lambert: Helena.lambert@dgmi.co.uk Tel: 0207 603 5086


Cardiff Connects - Aligning the future of National and Local Government Delivery

cardiff connects 2016 summit video

Posted 1st December 2016

The Cardiff Connects 2016 Summit video is now available. 

Take a look at highlights from the day, along with interviews from the speakers here:


3rd November 2016 - Infrastructure, Innovation, Integration 

Posted 9th September 2016

The Cardiff Connect Summit is an event devoted to exploring how national and local aspirations for integrated public services can be practically managed through new models over the coming years. Cardiff Connects is an event for leaders throughout the public sector, who have been tasked with organisational change and service delivery. 

The day will examine innovative and visionary public sector ambitions, from HMRC’s Building our Future programme, investing in smart urban transport solutions, to providing digital and efficient service solutions for a modern and transformed public sector.

We will be joined by leading policy makers from: the National Audit Office, HM Revenue and Customs, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, Core Cities, NESTA and, Centre for Cities

The summit will take place on 3rd November 2016 at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Cardiff City Centre from 10:45-16:00.

For more information take a look at the event website at:


For any questions regarding Cardiff Connects or to RSVP contact Helena Lambert

Call: 0207 6035086

Email: helena.lambert@dgmi.co.uk


Launching our review into the Criminal Justice System

Posted July 7th 2016

We are delighted to have launched our Breaking Barriers: Changing Lives project on Tuesday 12th July at HMP Forest Bank in Salford. We were joined by a number of key stakeholders from the public, private and VCSE sectors, and discussed criminal justice reform and the implications of Greater Manchester Devolution.

Being led by the Rt. Hon Hazel Blears, Professor Lord Patel of Bradford OBE and Dr. Jon Bashford, the project takes a whole-systems and place-based approach to the Criminal Justice System. It focusses upon three stages of the Criminal Justice System:

1.       Prevention - Reducing demand (offending) at the front-end prior to entering the system

2.       Custody - Prisoners journey through the system/prison; ensuring it is productive and ‘works’

3.       Rehabilitation - Stopping people from re-entering the system; enhancing resilience to re-offending

To have a sneak peek at some of the drivers of the project, please take a look at the slides


The Breaking Barriers Summit

Posted May 6th 2016

Health and social care provision in England faces unprecedented and systemic challenges. The NHS is heading towards a £30 billion funding gap by 2020-21 and Local Authorities a £700 million adult social care funding gap. Both face rising challenges around elderly care, obesity and long term conditions.

At this pivotal time, we will be hosting the Breaking Barriers Summit in central London on Tuesday 28th June 2016. The Summit will offer leaders and senior managers from local government and the NHS practical and effective models of change for building a sustainable health and social care system through new models of collaboration, integration and innovation.

The Summit, taking place between 10am and 4.30pm at the Grand Connaught Rooms near London Kings Cross, will host Professor Lord Patel of Bradford OBE and the Rt. Hon Hazel Blears who will be unveiling the findings and recommendations from their Breaking Barriers independent review. The report explores the pressures on health and social care provision in England, their implications, and how a combined approach between local government and the NHS can take a radical, whole systems, and place-based method to build a truly sustainable future.

The packed agenda will also include four breakout sessions each devoted to a different opportunity and barrier for integration- from big data to governance, from joint planning models to funding physical integration. The keynote addresses and interactive Q&A will be delivered by leading figures including Lord Prior of Brampton (Minister for NHS Productivity), Cllr. Izzi Seccombe (the LGA spokesperson), and the Greater Manchester Health & Social Care Partnership’s Strategic Director Warren Heppolette.

Have a look at the Breaking Barriers agenda and read about the people behind the report on the website at:



Call: 0207 603 5086
Email: breakingbarriers@dgmi.co.uk / hugh.howell@dgmi.co.uk /

The Breaking Barriers Summit Brochure and Agenda


Connected Agendas

Posted April 25th 2016

This morning DragonGate hosted ‘Connected Agendas: Integrated Thinking and Smarter Solutions for Public Service Delivery’ at Broadway House. Kindly hosted by Cardiff Council and chaired by Lord Patel of Bradford, this seminar reflected on the challenges facing public service providers and the most ambitious examples of delivering service transformation in the public sector including the DWP’s 2020 Vision, Cardiff Council’s masterplan to become Europe’s most liveable capital city, and using the Internet of Things in the public sector.

The agenda reflected the range of interested parties who are involved in rising to the budgetary and demand-side challenges currently facing the public service landscape. All speakers discussed how they were trialling different initiatives to transform public service delivery, and better engage their respective communities. These included:

 Cardiff’s Future as a Smart City – Paul Orders, Chief Executive at Cardiff Council

 Internet of Things for Cities  – Scott Cain, Chief Business Officer at Future Cities Catapult

Managing Public Sector Transformation Projects – Tim Banfield, Executive Director at Infrastructure and Projects Authority

DragonGate are grateful to all the speakers who participated at the event and attendees’ contributions – presentations from the day can be accessed using the links above.


The Budget 2016

Posted March 17th 2016

Whilst most coverage of the 2016 budget focused on Osbourne’s change to personal tax allowances, the sugar tax, and plans for all schools to become academies, DragonGate have put together a Bluffer’s Guide to the 2016 Budget, to highlight some of the major developments announced that may not have got headline media attention.

In particular, several measures announced will accelerate the government’s ongoing ‘devolution revolution’. From devolved criminal justice powers in Greater Manchester to Newcastle’s National Institute for Smart Data Innovation, this budget has shown the government’s support for innovations in public service delivery, including ever-greater local powers, and leveraging the value of open data.

DragonGate will additionally be holding a seminar, Connected Agendas, on innovative service delivery strategies in the public sector, which will feature a range of speakers discussing the transformative initiatives happening across government agencies and departments. For further information please contact graham.atkins@dgmi.co.uk


Estate of the Art

Posted March 14th 2016

Following on from the previous annual state of the estate reports, the government’s 2014-2015 State of the estate report outlines the government’s strategy and progress in making the central civil estate more sustainable – reducing the overall number of properties occupied, and using more effective ways of working. With other coverage focussing on changes in overall size, costs, and space, DragonGate have focused on future strategies, how changes in FY14-15 compare to the government’s reduction since 2010, and whether the government are on track to meet their most up-to-date targets. The report on this year's State of the Estate can be accessed by clicking here


DragonGate Bluffer's Guide to the Spending Review 2015

Posted November 27th 2015

With much of the headline newspaper coverage of George Osborne’s Spending Review & Autumn Statement 2015 concerned with his ‘double U-turn’- Daily Mail’s so-called ‘End of Austerity’ and Daily Mirror’s ‘Victory’ over proposed tax credit cuts- DragonGate have put together a DragonGate Bluffer’s Guide to the Spending Review & Autumn Statement 2015 highlighting some of the other major developments Mr Osborne announced that may not have got the headline media attention.

These developments impact the panorama of the public service landscape, bringing both opportunities and challenges. These challenges are not insurmountable, with our recent seminar ‘Eroding Barrier – The Future Shape of Public Services’ providing evidence of the capacity for innovative solutions to be produced from across the public service landscape that go beyond merely coping with the pressures, but deliver something new and trail-blazing.


Eroding Barriers - The Future Shape of Public Services

Posted November 27th 2015

On 24th November, a mere 24 hours before George Osborne was to release his joint Spending Review & Autumn Statement 2015, DragonGate hosted ‘Eroding Barriers – The Future Shape of Public Services’ at the House of Lords. Chaired by Professor Lord Patel of Bradford, former Chairman of the Mental Health Act Commission, this seminar reflected upon some standout initiatives across the UK that are looking to reimagine and reform the public service landscape around integration, streamlining of services and the client-journey. The agenda was designed to reflect the diversity of interested parties in meeting the challenges dominating the public service landscape.

We were fortunate enough to hear from all speakers how the different sub-sectors of the public service landscape- voluntary sector, Civil Service, NHS, LEPs, local government and private sector- were trail-blazing innovative programmes that individually and collectively would meet the current and future needs of the public sector. These were:

  • the role of the voluntary sector in re-imagining the pillars and principles of support for vulnerable people- Chris Wright, Chief Executive Catch22;
  • a snapshot view of how Central Government is set to tackle the property and estate element of public sector reform- Bruce Mann, Executive Director of the Government Property Unit;
  • development of a new model of care for older people centred around the community and supported by innovation, research and education- Jenny Shand, Care City Executive Lead from North East London NHS Foundation Trust;
  • how having a comprehensive vision of desired outcomes can help unlock growth opportunities across a region as exemplified by the Leeds City Region- Roger Marsh OBE, Chairman of Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership;
  • the need for an ‘enabler’ local authority and the opportunities that this has unlocked within the City of Bradford- Kersten England, Chief Executive Bradford Metropolitan District Council;
  • and how the OneHub Bradford Approach can enable unified public services, overcome ingrained challenges and unlock regenerative capabilities- David Werran, Executive Chairman DragonGate

These contributions were timely in view of announcements the following day as it highlighted the capacity for the public service landscape to generate solutions above and beyond the AS IS situation, despite the pressures.

DragonGate are grateful for all the speakers who participated at the event and the contributions of the attendees– slides for the day can be accessed here.

Eroding Barriers – Presentation Slides


Connecting the Cuts - Delivering World Class Public Services

Posted August 12th 2015

On July 16th at the House of Lords, DragonGate organised and hosted “Connecting the Cuts- Growing World Class Public Services”. Chaired by Professor Lord Patel of Bradford, former Chairman of the Mental Health Act Commission, this seminar provided a panoramic snapshot across the major areas of public sector reform. The agenda was selected to reflect issues that will impact every local authority and community over the next 5 years, from local devolution to the a rapidly ageing population.

A major theme from the seminar was the pressing need for service integration at both a local and a national level . Whilst more “joined up government” has been bandied about by politicians of all persuasion for decades- the consensus from the event was that without effective connectivity between public services, tackling emerging items such as the £30 billion NHS black hole, or the implementation of  universal credit would be non-starters. Time is no longer a luxury in this matter and new models of care and delivery would have to be devised and successfully implemented within the current parliamentary term. The good news is that there are a range of new ground-breaking initiatives and models already underway- both internationally and closer to home in the work being undertaken within the NHS Forward View and projects such as One Hub Bradford.

DragonGate are grateful for all the speakers who participated at the event– slides for the day can be accessed here