Making the most of resources: letter to public bodies

Letter from Public Finance Minister re-affirming the importance of identifying and delivering opportunities to spend resources ever more effectively. Reminder to public bodies of reporting duties under the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010.

To:  Chairs and Chief Executives of public bodies in Scotland
From:  Ivan McKee MSP, Minister for Public Finance
Issued: 30 May 2024

Having recently been appointed Minister for Public Finance, and having complementary responsibility for Public Service Reform, it is my role to identify opportunities to ensure we are achieving value for money from our £62 billion Scottish public sector spend. As you can appreciate, the more resources we can shift to effective front line delivery the more successful we will be in delivering on the Government’s objectives. It will be important that core Scottish Government and public bodies work closely together to make the difference we need to make.

I want to ensure that, across our organisations, we can identify and deliver opportunities for improved effectiveness of spend, both within and between public bodies. For example:

  • how we secure more effective spend across public bodies and across portfolios,   including through Scottish Government’s Single Scottish Estate and Shared Services programmes
  • how we leverage collective expertise to maximise effectiveness of expenditure, through the use of collaborative procurement frameworks and cost effective implementation of digital technologies
  • opportunities to shift resources to front-line services through review of the public bodies landscape, sharing of back-office functions, removal of duplication and measurement of front-line to back-office spend ratios
  • that public bodies are implementing ‘best practice’ and driving Continuous Improvement, including implementation of standardised assessments of organisational effectiveness and performance
  • productivity improvements, including as a first step ensuring that appropriate productivity measures and productivity improvement plans and targets are in place
  • reformed digital public services, including through reuse of digital components and infrastructure to increase the pace of change and reduce cost
  • optimal deployment of the workforce, within and across public bodies
  • improved data on spend within public bodies on estates, IT, back-office costs, procurement and administration of grants (including how the new benchmarking tool can help)

I am equally keen to explore plans and work in hand to build a foundation which ensures our public services remain fiscally sustainable and improve outcomes in the coming years, including through reducing demand for crisis intervention services.

At the same time, as I step into this role, I want to understand life as it feels from your perspectives. Your organisation will already be engaging with Scottish Government colleagues on these and related challenges and priorities. I want to better understand what this means for Scotland’s public bodies:

  • what your ambitions are
  • what you’ve achieved
  • what you’re doing (independently and collectively, including in clusters)
  • how you’re sharing experiences and learning from the experiences of others
  • what obstacles you’re encountering, how you’re striving to overcome these and where you might need support
  • how public bodies can influence the shape of our shared reform agenda

Statutory Reporting Duties in Part 3 of Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010

On a separate matter, you will be aware of recent media interest in the consistency with which public bodies have published financial and other transparency information.

It is incumbent on each public body to adhere to the statutory duties to which it is subject. I expect the public bodies concerned to comply with these statutory reporting requirements. For clarification, the nature of these duties is set out in Part 3 of the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010. Details of those public bodies that are subject to these duties are listed in Schedule 8 to that Act.

My officials and I will be keen to engage with public bodies in the coming months, including in collective settings such as the Scottish Delivery Bodies Group, NDPB Chief Executives Forum and Scottish Leaders Forum. I will also be having separate meetings with portfolio Cabinet Secretaries on this work as part of our pre-budget discussions. This can, I hope, support our efforts to work together to improve service delivery.

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