Service Transformation Agreement (2007)

HM Treasury


  • 1.1 Citizens’ time is not free, yet often the way public services are delivered assumes it to be so. The aim of this Service Transformation Agreement (STA) is to change public services so they more often meet the needs of people and businesses, rather than the needs of government, and by doing so reduce the frustration and stress of accessing them. The result will be services that are better for the customer, better for front line staff and better for the taxpayer.

Tailoring services to needs

  • 1.2 Service transformation is about changing public services so they are tailored more to the needs of people and businesses and less to the structures of government. Public services should be delivered in the ways and at the times that people now expect them; the public service should get it right first time so that people do not have to initiate contact again and again; and rather than expecting people to “join up” government for themselves it should be done for them. Government will do this by engaging users of public services to learn what really matters to them, and by acting on what is learnt.
  • 1.3 People are busier and their time is an increasingly precious commodity. They expect services that respond to their individual needs (“I’ve been made redundant”) rather than to the needs of individual delivery agencies (“fill in Form D123”). And they expect to deal with government in ways and at times that are convenient for their personal circumstances, for example out of normal office hours and from home over the internet.
  • 1.4 Yet carrying out a simple task – reporting a house move, notifying a change in circumstances – can involve being shuffled from office to office, phone line to phone line giving the same information again and again. And services that appear confusing and inaccessible may deter people from seeking them with the result that citizens are denied the help that the Government, in its policies, seeks to offer.
  • 1.5 This is self-perpetuating. The entire public sector faces a constant battle with "avoidable contact" – demand caused by customers initiating contact because they are confused, need to check on progress, pass on information they have already given to other parts of the public sector and so on. This is contact that would not be necessary if the public sector could get things right first time. It simply frustrates customers and wastes their time; erodes public trust in government; clogs up government offices so that more important demand goes unmet; and wastes money. The challenge for the public sector is to follow the example of leading private sector providers who have rethought the ways in which they interact with people and businesses to improve customer value and reduce costs.

Reducing avoidable contact

  • 1.6 The key aim of service transformation is to reduce the number of unnecessary contacts that people need to have with government. Achieving this will require the whole of government to look critically and fundamentally at the way in which it designs and delivers services, and at the relationships between those organisations, whether in the public, private or third sectors, who have an interest in a particular area or customer group. By doing this the public sector will improve quality, accuracy and joining up across government. It will also save money and create more satisfying jobs for public sector staff.
  • 1.7 This change will require action right across the public sector, specifically in the context of delivering the 30 PSA priority outcomes, and will not be complete within a single Spending Review period. But during the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR07) period the Government will make practical reductions in the number of contacts; introduce the core services on which further change can be built; make the policy changes which will underpin further improvement; and engage with citizens, businesses and front line staff involving them, listening to them and learning from them, to improve public services.
  • 1.8 The Government’s aim for this STA is to establish across the public sector a sustainable culture built upon an understanding of the needs and behaviours of citizens and businesses to create services that are:
    • better for customers. Services are simpler, more streamlined and intuitive, more accessible and convenient. Services are not designed to trip customers up, even though it sometimes seems that way. Customers will progressively find that when they deal with government each contact they have is easy and joined-up. Each one fulfils a need, adds value to the outcome and is trusted.
    • better for staff. Front line public sector staff – not just those in face-to-face offices, but also those answering calls in contact centres and developing services for the web – have a strong culture of service. They are closest to the customer and feel the public service’s strengths and weaknesses the most acutely. By using their own experience front line staff will increasingly find that they can get on with delivering services of which they can feel proud.
    • better for the taxpayer. Unnecessary and duplicative contact, cumbersome and complicated processes, fragmented and inaccessible services are as frustrating and costly for government as they are for staff and the customer. Each unnecessary contact removed is a saving giving greater value for money for the taxpayer.