An old boss of mine at the Home Office once remarked that people will always choose to repeat mistakes that others have made even when they are told how to avoid making them. At the time, I found that comment strange but having observed quite a few diverse organisations since then; he has maintained a 100% record of being spot on.
The recently dissolved Regional Centres of Excellence (RCEs) learned the hard way back in 2005. After having been accused of failing to deliver, the nine RCEs shaped up and set about delivering some exciting projects which have delivered real cashable savings. Mistakes were made, but building a new organisation from scratch to act as a catalyst for change is a tough assignment for any one! As with many things, three years down the line they had really started to deliver which is always the prompt to reorganise. As an amusing aside, I sometimes think that there are secret devotees of the late Chairman Mao promoting 'permanent revolution' working in government, particularly in the NHS.
However, returning to the point, the RCEs have now been subsumed into Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnerships (RIEPs). Their remit contains the efficiency agenda but also improvement and there is a national strategy to provide a sense of purpose and direction. They also have much more money at their disposal than the RCEs. The RIEPs are pivotal in helping councils deliver on both efficiency and the quality of services they provide. If they build on the work of the RCEs they can provide an example for the UK public sector. The question in my mind is will they take the easy option and learn from the RCE experiences? Or will my old boss keep up his 100% record?