Lord Gus O’Donnell: leadership and reform in the public sector

The former UK cabinet secretary speaks about life as a civil service leader and his work to get governments to embrace citizen wellbeing, instead of narrower economic agendas.

We share a planet, even if we are rather a long way apart, we have similar governance arrangements, reflecting our shared history, and we are both trying to raise public sector productivity in an age of austerity. In other words we need to deliver better for less.

Our societies are ageing, our media proliferating and becoming more personalised, and technology is changing what is possible and what is expected. I believe we need to approach this endeavour by first sorting out what government is for in such a world.

Around the world over the long run, the size of the public sector has increased dramatically.

It is considered normal for countries to develop their social safety nets and the quantity and quality of public services as countries raise their economic strength. What government is for changes over time but I believe there are some timeless principles.

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