Over the past decade, the public sector in the UK has made great effort in adopting business excellence thinking. To what extent have such practices taken root and what has been their impact? Presents some of the key results from a recent empirical study of 119 public sector organisations in North-East England. They show considerable strengths in some of the related HR practices, leadership issues, service delivery and quality matters. Equally, many of them face major challenges in adopting appropriate performance measurement systems, in eliminating waste and reducing costs, and in being innovative in service design.