About this programme
The Chancellor of the Exchequer asked Sir Ian Diamond, the National Statistician, to undertake a review of public service productivity. To improve measures, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is now partnering with government departments, academics and expert users to help develop and improve methodology and data sources.
The first phase of the review will look at measurement improvements for England but we will also be working with the devolved administrations to share best practice and identify what data sources would be required to make improvements to the estimates for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This is with a view to how UK-wide measurement improvements will be incorporated into the national accounts in future.
Measuring public service productivity
Measuring public service productivity is not easy, because unlike the private sector, there is often no direct charge for services that are delivered to the public. Public services are usually free at the point of delivery, which makes reviewing public service productivity and any changes to it very challenging.
Introducing better measures will require aspects of a service's quality to be considered by making quality adjustments. This will help us to see:
how much schools are improving pupil outcomes
how the quality of social security administration has changed over time
what impact the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had on health services
Only around 60% of government services have made quality adjustments, and there is a variation in the types of adjustments used across UK public services. This makes aggregating data difficult and headline numbers hard to interpret for overall policy purposes.
The Public Service Productivity Review (PSPR) will help to produce improved measures of the value of public service productivity and will show its contribution to the UK economy. With public services currently equating to around one-fifth of the output of the UK economy, it is vital that statistics in this area provide a true reflection of productivity levels and are reported as accurately as possible.
Being at the forefront of measuring public service productivity since the Atkinson review (2005) (PDF, 1398KB), the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is well-positioned to take on this project to produce statistics for the public good.
The PSPR is overseen by a sponsorship group, made up of the National Statistician and permanent secretaries from HM Treasury and a steering group. It is co-chaired by the Chief Economist at the ONS and Director of Macro-Economic Environment Statistics and Analysis at HM Treasury.
The Public Service Productivity Review (PSPR) is expected to run over the next two years. The first deliverable is being prepared for the Chancellor's Autumn Statement in November 2023, where baseline estimates on performance will be provided.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is in the process of designing detailed delivery plans and considering how this aligns to other strategic work and objectives, as well as the current and future cross-government landscape.
We will update this page accordingly. If you would like more information, please email PSP.Review@ons.gov.uk.
- As part of the commitment to the Public Services Productivity Review, ONS reached its first milestone on 17 November 2023, publishing new experimental baseline estimates of UK annual public service productivity, 1997 to 2019 and a new experimental measure for the path of annual UK public service productivity for the years 2021 and 2022.
- ONS provides an update on the work and progress made towards improving public service measures on productivity on 20 February 2024
- ONS launches a new pilot “time-use survey” for the public sector
Shining a light on Public Service Productivity
Blog | 7 August 2023
You might also be interested in:
- Public service productivity, UK: 1997 to 2022
- Public service productivity: total, UK QMI
- ESCoE nowcast paper
- Public service productivity, quarterly, UK: April to June 2023
- Public service productivity: total, UK, 2020
- Public service productivity: total, UK QMI
- Sources and methods for public service productivity estimates
- A guide to quality adjustment in public service productivity measures
- Time Well Spent: How the ONS is improving the measurement of public service productivity
- Public service productivity, quarterly, UK: July to September 2023