Public services (or services of general interest) provide the critical infrastructure for the functioning of the economy, being key actors in the development of a sustainable future for the European Union. In 2014, they were contributing more than 26% to the EU GDP and employ more than 64 million people, corresponding to around 30% of the workforce in the EU.
After providing a buffer to the sharp decline in employment in the immediate aftermath of the crisis, public services have seen an accelerated restructuring and playing this role has become more difficult. This stemmed from austerity and fiscal consolidation measures, driven by the worsened state of public finances and the New Public Management (NPM) philosophy.
This has resulted in unprecedented employment losses in most EU Member States, along with the development of a more market-oriented approach, an increased empowerment of management and more focus on performance monitoring.
As illustrated by surveys conducted among providers of public services – such as the Pulse of Public Services (carried out by CEEP twice a year) or the Commission 7th Research Framework Programme on “Coordinating for Cohesion in Public sector of the Future”, effectiveness, efficiency and supporting innovations is a key task in public services today.
Assuming that there is no single route towards greater efficiency and good quality in the delivery of public services, CEEP launched a series of workshops in 2014-2015 to provide an opportunity for members to share experiences and get inspiration from other Member States.
The workshops aimed at providing support to CEEP members and public services providers currently in the middle of significant processes of change. A major motivation for the project was the need to reflect upon the very fast-paced changes in countries undergoing reform programmes under Troika’s supervision. In these countries, public services are under a strong pressure that often leaves little room for taking the lead to change and reform the provision of services in due time.
In order to support leaders of public services to cope with current and future challenges, CEEP launched a project consisting of a series of seminars and training sessions. Carried out in five different EU countries (UK, Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Portugal), the seminars involved more than 100 top level managers, CEOs and senior executives and a large variety of public services. The issues addressed by the seminars were:
- London (UK): Coping with limited financial resources in healthcare, public administration and the education sector
- Athens (Greece): Managing change in public services and the role of regulators
- Nicosia (Cyprus): Restructuring to improve productivity and efficiency
- Rome (Italy): Innovating in the management of social services and in administrations – steps forward
- Lisbon (Portugal): Developing synergies and managing change within public services in times of financial constraints