The video - the citizens' view on delivering open public services

We brought 24 members of the public together as a Citizens’ Jury for two days to consider the future delivery of our public services.

We wanted to understand their views on what ‘essential’ public services are, and for them to look at different ways of funding and providing public services, including how much risk is acceptable when delivering them.

Watch the jurors in action in the short overview video below.


View transcript

On the 25th and 26th of June, 24 members of the public came together as a Citizens’ Jury to consider public services under pressure.

Commissioned by PwC and run by BritainThinks, the main objectives of the Jury were:

  • To identify what are ‘essential’ public services
  • To look at different ways of funding and providing public services
  • To explore the concepts of ‘risk’ and failure’ in public services

Participants came from a range of different backgrounds and different regions so that we heard a mix of opinions and experiences

A number of experts briefed the Jury to help them understand the potential impact of changing the funding and delivery of public services.

The jurors’ were also helped by a panel of experts who heard some of their initial thoughts and answered their questions.

Juror one: We put children with special needs in the top bracket that should be publicly funded entirely.

Brian Lamb: I would totally agree, publicly funded, but I don’t know where you would put charities. We are not formally part of the public sector but neither are we private sector.

Jurors broke into groups to explore different sectors: Health, education, local government and policing in greater depth. In groups, they looked at how services should be funded and provided as well as considering the risks associated with these changes.

After discussing how much risk is acceptable when delivering public services, the jurors had different levels of tolerance to failure depending on the circumstances. For example, they had low tolerance where it might result in death, physical harm or the potential for loss of freedom for citizens and higher tolerance where the public chooses to use the service or where alternatives are in place.

Finally, after two days, the Jury developed five tests that they wanted the government to consider when making decisions about who should deliver public services -public, private or third sector organisations:

  • Will using the private or third sector deliver better value than a public sector provider?
  • Will a private or third sector provider bring expertise or specialism that is hard to find in the public sector?
  • How can we procure the service most effectively, so that we actually get the service we need?
  • Is it clear who is accountable to the users of the public service?
  • Will services continue if the supplier fails?

Dame Julie Mellor: My advice to jurors is to make sure that they think about designing services around the person who is going to be receiving the services so that they are seamless for the individual receiving the services and only then think about what does that mean for who funds it and who provides it.

Juror two: The views changed with respect to how we perceive public services and the threat to public services and how it’s probably got to change now.

Juror three: We were all off the same view that if you are going to put things into a private company to deliver a public service they have to be completely and utterly accountable.

Juror four: I think actually, now, since we did that there’s a lot more that you can pull out to the private sector. But I think it’s really defence, so army, police, fire service really should be regulated by one singular body rather than independent ones which may not necessarily sing from the same song sheet.

Brian Lamb: The crucial question that needs answering is what creates trust in different providers and therefore how much can be put into the private sector depends an awful lot on how much you trust either the private sector or the voluntary sector, or for that matter the public sector, in terms of what their motivations are, about quality, about price, and about where the money’s going to go and I think that’s fundamental.

Juror two: We’ve got to look at different ways of working and look at public services differently than we did before, maybe ten, twenty years ago. That’s a lesson now for us all. But it’s how we tackle it and how we tackle it properly.