Public services: how to save without cutting

Nesta outlines a radical efficiency plan to make substantial savings without cutting public services

Does the ability to deliver better services while making savings of up to 60% in costs sound too good to be true for most public managers?

A report published today by the Innovation Unit and the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta) shows how it is possible - but only by doing things differently.

'Radical Efficiency' outlines practical ways to deliver better and cheaper public services. This major research project has investigated hundreds of international examples where groundbreaking innovation has solved age-old problems, at a much lower cost. From these, the report draws lessons for policymakers and practitioners for how we can make services radically better, rather than starting with what to cut.

The report cites many examples of innovations that successfully achieve 'more for less', often by using new suppliers and new resources and by allowing committed and passionate leaders to come from anywhere – including from the frontline of public services. It also argues that achieving long term service transformation will only be done by generating new insights and by re-evaluating who the customers really are.

Matthew Horne, co-author of the report, said: "Many people working in the public sector are concerned that cuts in public services will mean worse outcomes. But it doesn't have to be this way. We have seen a tantalising glimpse of a better future by adopting radical efficiency. It's not an abstract theory - we are putting it into practice right now in the UK."

Dr Michael Harris, leading the work for Nesta, said: "We'll only be able to make these radical approaches the norm if we support more public service professionals, communities and citizens to lead the efforts to save money and make services better."

Radical Efficiency is the basis for a new programme for Nesta's Public Services Lab, working with six local authorities to transform services for families with very young children. The programme will combine research with practice to support local innovators to save money and deliver better services.

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