For the public sector to deliver the high-quality services the people of Wales deserve there must be strong leadership and much greater collaboration, says Carl Sargeant, the Welsh minister for local government and communities. He suggests that a new centre for leadership excellence will help achieve both goals
Public service delivery is at the heart of the Welsh government's programme for government. To support the delivery of effective and efficient public services that meet the needs of people in Wales we need to be able to build and sustain leadership at all levels of our workforce.
Great leadership is essential to the effective delivery of those services, especially in these challenging times. I recently launched a new Welsh government programme aimed at improving leadership and management practice within the Welsh public services.
Academi Wales has been developed in response to the programme for government commitment to establish a national centre for leadership excellence. It will bring together the best leadership programmes, services and resources from across the public services, including local government, NHS and higher education.
Academi Wales will provide the best quality leadership development opportunities for those leaders, delivered within the specific context of Welsh public service delivery, and our key shared challenges.
Last summer I mapped out how public services should collaborate across six regional areas. This footprint is the basis for future collaborative work between public services. It provides coherence for future regional collaboration and gives the clarity that local government itself has quite rightly called for.
By putting collaboration on a more stable, long-term footing, partners are able to get on with the job of joining up services to meet the needs of individuals and communities across Wales.
Meeting the growing, complex needs of citizens in the current financial climate requires fundamental changes quickly. We have neither the finance nor the capacity to deliver the high quality services the people of Wales deserve unless we work together.
Local government is a major service provider in Wales accounting for £5bn of the Welsh government budget. Welsh ministers and local councillors are committed to working in partnership to secure significant service improvement and greater efficiency by increasing the pace of public service reform. Strong collaborative leadership is critical to deliver that reform.
Public service reform is not just about local government however. The relationships between the Welsh government, local authorities, higher and further education, the NHS and all public service organisations are critical in getting the most value we possibly can from the funding available and the collective skills of our people.
I believe that the role of Academi Wales is to develop leaders so that individuals can deliver effectively. Such leaders could be working at the coalface of delivery, involved in administrative processes, leading at the top of an organisation, or be an elected member.
Academi Wales will bring these people together to learn, develop and share the best of what we have in Wales.
To make sure our services are easy to access, and to ensure we are quick to respond, we need to work together across all our sectors and organisations.
We need to look critically at what is best delivered where. Sometimes services might best be delivered through local or regional arrangements, and our regional footprint for public service collaboration is a framework to support this local decision making. Sometimes the delivery solution will be national.
Whichever solution is appropriate, Academi Wales will be there to support the leadership agenda, alongside other vehicles such as the Public Service Leadership Group. This brings together strong executive leadership from public services across Wales including local government, health and police services, and helps drive the programme of reform. This is exactly the kind of collaborative leadership we need at the heart of public services and which the Academi will foster and nurture.
So, how will we ensure that Academi Wales provides us with best value for money at a time when the pressure is on us to demonstrate that we are spending every single penny efficiently and that there is no waste or extravagance?
Academi Wales will implement a programme of evaluation to provide us with the evidence and certainty that it is adding value in terms of how it impacts on individuals and their performance. Improving leadership can only be a positive thing, but we need to be able to demonstrate how that makes a difference to the lives of people in Wales.
By combining resources and streamlining learning opportunities, it will ensure maximum value for the Welsh pound.
This cannot be done by working in silos. In order to get the most value we possibly can from the funding available and the collective skills of our people we can and must work together more effectively.
Academi Wales will help facilitate conversations between the leaders of our public service organisations, in order to help them work across and between sectors.
This is essential to deliver the best services and tackle our collective challenges of poverty, educational attainment, improved health, safe communities and ensuring that our older people can live dignified, fulfilled lives.
This article first appeared in Public Servant magazine