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1991: Citizen's charter promises better services

British Prime Minister John Major has launched a citizen's charter to improve public services.

Calling it "the central theme for public life" in the 1990s it is Mr Major's first attempt to re-define Conservatism after Mrs Thatcher stepped down last November.

Launching the White Paper at a press conference in Whitehall Mr Major admitted: "I don't pretend that I am offering a quick fix."

He said: "It is a programme for a decade. The charter programme will find better ways of converting money into better services. I want the people of the country to have services in which they can be confident, and in which public servants can take pride."

The principles underlying the prime minister's plans are to increase competition and privatisation in the public sector and to improve standards with initiatives like performance related pay.


"The charter programme will find better ways of converting money into better services."

British Prime Minister John Major

League tables of examination results, truancy and leavers' destinations will be introduced in schools.

Similar tables showing council performance will also become available when a new bill allows the Audit Commission greater access to their accounts.

For the first time NHS patients will have guaranteed time limits for all consultations and some treatments.

The utilities - including gas and electricity - will also be expected to offer and keep appointments for home visits, as part of the attempt to put consumers' rights first.

Compensation will be available for some delayed and cancelled trains and further steps will be taken to privatise British Rail. Neil Kinnock dismissed the scheme as "very unconvincing", without additional money to pay for it.

Political commentators suspect these extensive plans mean a general election will be delayed until next year.

The Labour lead in opinion polls has already been cut to three points.

The Labour Party has just launched its own citizen's charter and criticised the government's effort for failing to introduce a freedom of information act.

The Liberal Democrats are dissatisfied there is no mention of constitutional reform.

In Context
John Major went on to win the general election with the Conservative Party in April 1992.

His attempt to establish measurable and accountable public services was one of his most important legacies.

In July 1999 the Labour Government replaced the citizen's charter with the Service First programme to improve public services.

By 2002 Service First incorporated at least 200 national citizen's charters covering all major areas of public service.

Charter marks continue to be awarded to public sector divisions demonstrating high levels of customer service and efficiency.


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