5. Maximising the impact of public spending
The third section of the Framework outlined the Scottish Government's proposed approach to the spending review, including consideration of how we might optimise the delivery of outcomes through increasing efficiency and effectiveness in the deployment of public funds.
Q4: In Chapter 3 we have identified a number of ways in which we will be exploring how to get the best value out of Scotland's public spending, including:
- Improving cross-government collaboration
- Public service reform
- Prevention and invest to save initiative
- The public sector workforce
- Better targeting
- Target revenue raising
We welcome your views on these and other ways to maximise the positive impact of public spending. - Please give us your views.
A broad range of organisations and individuals generally agreed with all the proposed approaches aiming to maximise the positive impact of Scotland's public spending. Several organisations agreed with specific aspects and made suggestions for the Scottish Government; including the expansion of childcare services, improved cross-sector collaboration, fair reward for employees, a focus on prevention and investment partnership working, and building a "stable framework" for delivery partners to rebuild public services.
Recurring themes were the support for the improvement in cross-government collaboration, adoption of an outcomes budgeting based approach, and mainstreaming of multi-year funding.
Responses are broadly grouped under the headings from the consultation (above) followed by some of the responses under other themes.
Improving cross-government collaboration
Cross-government collaboration was recognised as essential for optimal public spending by a number of responses and several responses identified opportunities for improvement related to their specific sector. The David Hume Institute welcomed the focus on cross-government collaboration. They caveated: "However, we would also like to see more focus on tackling the tensions and contradictions between policies and between local and national governments which are likely to undermine progress in addressing priorities."
Voluntary Health Scotland and Poverty and Inequality Commission also highlighted the need for more joined-up strategic policymaking, whilst the RSE called for increased transparency on the difficulties encountered enacting cross-government interdisciplinary collaboration.
Welcoming the Framework's focus on partnership working, and building a "stable framework" for delivery partners to rebuild public services, the ALLIANCE commented: "we must overcome siloed approaches and hierarchal funding frameworks which reinforce power and control within statutory settings, and which impact negatively on people accessing services. The partnership principle must also extend to looking at overall budgets and policy areas, as opposed to siloed decision making which fails to consider overlapping agendas and priorities."
The RSE called for increased transparency on the difficulties encountered enacting cross-government interdisciplinary collaboration. Individual respondents also called on the government to maximise efficiency, address the cost of provision first through a structural chain and end cross-party jockeying for positions by focusing on a common goal.
At the Public Bodies Session, participants called for work to be undertaken to enhance the strategic alignment of the delivery of public services. This would involve taking a user-centred design to ensure that the best services were delivered to citizens in the most effective and efficient way.
Public service reform
Under the general theme of public service reform, a number of organisations made statements related to the range of measures or approaches they felt should underpin reform of public services. Suggestions included options around policy decisions, administrative actions, financial steps, and issues relating to specific sectors including mental health, and technology, among other aspects. For example, The ALLIANCE called for a human rights-based approach to public finance and transparent leadership, accountability, flexibility, and trust in the skills, knowledge and expertise of third sector organisations. Focused on the methodologies that should be used more widely, the Scottish Women's Budget Group (SWBG) advocated for the inclusion of a gendered impact and equality impact analysis as an integral part of the decision-making process. The Scottish Wildlife Trust called on the Scottish Government to expand on the HM Treasury Green Book approach to evaluation and appraisal to enable government spending on nature. In a general vein, SCVO called on the government to support the voluntary sector's role in policy development.
Under this theme, participants at the external engagement events made a number of further suggestions as to how the Scottish Government might get the best value out of public spending. On the general theme of alternative methods to underpin reform and policy, in order to achieve best value, there was strong support for taking an outcomes budgeting based approach where spending was aligned with desired outcomes. This was argued to be a continuation of the journey to progress the recommendations of the Christie Commission. Outcomes based working would involve robust analysis and evaluation to understand the effectiveness of spending on policy interventions.
More specifically related to effective spending, there was strong support for streamlining the approach to funding, commissioning and procurement (including via delivery partners) to reduce the administrative burden on organisations. A number of points related to funding sources were raised, with participants in particular arguing that the Scottish Government embrace further partnership working with the third and private sectors.
The Scottish Community Development Centre and Poverty and Inequality Commission also called for a co-productive and participative approach to the review respectively, involving communities, service users, and individuals impacted by spending and policy decisions.
The Scottish Science Advisory Council called on the Scottish Government to do more to strengthen mutual understanding between policymakers and the research community on how best to align objectives.
Individual respondents also called on the government to maximise efficiency, address the cost of provision first through a structural chain and end cross-party jockeying for positions by focusing on a common goal.
Prevention and invest to save initiative
The inclusion of preventative approaches and spend to save initiatives was welcomed and further emphasised by some organisations in line with the principles of the Christie Commission. COSLA agreed that investment in prevention is "critical to success" and called for greater understanding of the opportunity cost of introducing new policies. Furthermore, COSLA noted there is a need to stop or change some things that are currently delivered from a national perspective, where they are not required locally. The call to invest in prevention was also made in the Third Sector Roundtable, alongside a request to revisit the Christie Commission.
ENABLE Scotland referred to the recommendations of the RSE Post-Covid-19 Futures Commission: "The Scottish Government should set up a public service transformation partnership to actively promote the principles and experience of social prescribing from around Scotland and beyond. The Scottish Government should also reaffirm and recommit to the principles of the Christie Commission, and work with delivery partners to implement them across public services and beyond, with business champions engaged to support the approach."
A key theme arising from several organisations was the need for better targeting in a couple of areas, including resource allocation to decrease reliance on public services, behaviour change interventions, potential reductions in public spending, and policymaking.
The ALLIANCE called on the Scottish Government to do more to tackle the root causes of inequality and the impact on different population groups.
In this vein, CPAG called on the Scottish Government to ensure free school education for all and allocate resources to welfare rights services located in schools to maximise family income. CPAG also advocated for resources to support parents, ensure an adequate supply of affordable, secure, good quality family housing, ensure funds are allocated to plug the gaps in the current social security system and ensure free school meals for all primary school pupils are rolled out and sustained from August 2022. Magic Breakfast also agreed with the Scottish Government on the universal provision of free breakfasts at primary and special school level, expressing the belief that the universal nature of the policy is fundamental to its success.
On targeting, Support in Mind Scotland agreed that there are opportunities to refine the targeting of some policies in order to focus on achieving outcomes for marginalised groups most in need. As an example, the organisation cited individuals living in rural Scotland as examples of people more likely to face specific challenges relating to their mental health.
Targeted revenue raising
Targeted revenue raising was addressed by several respondents. Comments revolved around a support for the concept, further calls for clarity, and concerns around implementation. The Poverty and Inequality Commission recommended additional targeted revenue-raising through tax to meet the child poverty targets. Similarly, the RSE suggested more targeted, selective spending to raise resources in areas of major priority, whilst also facilitating disinvestment in areas of lower priority, as a means of achieving specific policy priorities within a constrained fiscal environment. The SWBG expressed the need for considerations around the gendered nature of revenue raising and its potential to widen gender and other inequalities. Furthermore, the organisation called for the analysis of targeted revenue raising from a gendered perspective.
The RSE also highlighted the need for clarity on how ambitions for more targeted revenue raising and selective provision align with the Scottish Government's wider commitment to universal provision of services.
Individual respondents also called for increased investment in the detection and prevention of tax evasion and benefit fraud.
In addition to the approaches identified in the Framework, respondents also offered a number of ideas related to maximising public spending. Some respondents also offered contributions which focused on suggested priorities for investment and these have been included in Section 9.
Longer term funding
Support for multi-year funding recurred throughout both responses to the consultation and the external engagement sessions. Several organisations called for increased fair, flexible, and sustainable investment in the third/voluntary sector and preventive approaches. In a detailed response, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations called for multi-year funding, inflationary uplifts and contribution to core costs, less restrictive funding, timely decision-making and payments, and improving internal processes and systems. Young Scot, the Prince's Trust, and others commented: "We support SCVO's calls for all funders to provide funding over a longer-term, with positive terms and conditions. These include inflationary uplifts to meet rising costs, contributing to core operating costs beyond service and project funding, the trust and flexibility for organisations to adapt their offers based on changing needs, and maximising the added value of our skills, knowledge and experience."
Paths for All emphasised the importance of policy and budget alignment to mainstream multi-year funding across both Scottish and local government funding of the voluntary sector.
COSLA said there should be fair and sustainable funding to local government, and that multi-year settlements are required.
Youth Link Scotland and the Prince's Trust urged the Scottish Government and other funders to provide multi-year funding for the youth work workforce to enable long term contracts and invest in services which are engaging, supporting and improving outcomes for children and young people.
This desire for multi-year settlements was raised in all external engagement sessions, with participants emphasising the importance of multi-year settlements in enabling them to effectively plan for the medium-long term.
Regarding the achievement of net-zero targets. EAUC Scotland called for increased support for a cost-effective public sector transition to net zero.
At the stakeholder sessions on climate change it was argued that investing in local communities would deliver radical economic change (and associated impacts on climate change and child poverty). In terms of how to build foundations of reform in support of addressing climate change, it was argued that embedding climate change and biodiversity education at all levels would ultimately support better policy design and effective spending, while supporting behavioural shifts would yield long terms benefit and savings. This theme was echoed in the view that deprioritising spending on projects or programmes which were classed as producing high emissions would generate savings, while developing a regulatory system that unlocks private sector investment in climate change initiatives would increase funding.
On technology, Mydex CIC emphasised that a personal data store-based data logistics infrastructure could maximise the positive impact of public spending, especially in relation to the delivery of outcomes.
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