Focus groups are the flavour of the month in government circles. The latest - dubbed, inevitably, 'the People's Panel' - has been set up by public services minister David Clark.

The panel will consist of 5,000 randomly-selected UK citizens, who will be grilled on what people think about public services and how they can be improved.

'The panel's views will not dictate policy but give us a clearer idea of what people think,' says Mr Clark.

It will look at areas including the use of information technology, awareness of the Charter programme and complaints handling by public bodies. First published results are due in the summer.

Pollsters MORI and the school of public policy at Birmingham University will run the panel, which may also be used by other government departments to test public opinion.