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Public to have a say in Whitehall

A REVOLUTIONARY programme aimed at radically improving public services was launched by the Government this week.

In an attempt to improve communication a new body made up of a cross-section of the population will be allowed to criticise Whitehall and other public bodies.

At the same time, Government departments will be encouraged to work more closely together.

David Clark, the public service minister, said: "This is a world first and I am very pleased Britain has taken the lead in this. We are putting people at the heart of public services."

The programme, Service First, is the successor to the Citizen's Charter. All existing main charters, including the Parent's Charter, will be reviewed over the next two years.

The Service First document states: "In England, the overarching Parent's Charter and the Higher Education Charter have generally not been well received by users. In particular they fail to reflect the local strength and diversity of so much of our education system." It said the Further Education Charter had fared better.

A new People's Panel will be made up of 5,000 members reflecting a "microcosm of our society". It will research the public's views on improving services.

The Service First action plan also includes an audit team, new principles for public service, guides to improving existing charters, new charters and a more rigorous charter mark programme for those who have excelled.

Mr Clark said: "There will be provision for information and the opening-up of our closed society. I am determined to tackle this, making it a statutory duty to tell users about services.

"There will be nowhere to hide in the future."

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