A think-tank report called for a distinctively 'green' approach to public services. Public services could not be reduced to commodities, and the introduction of the market and privatization were usually wrong. It called for smaller, better public services, with greater local democratic control and a place for voluntary organizations with genuine independence.
Source: Andrew Pearmain and Brian Heatley, Smaller But Better? Post-growth public services, Green House
An independent review commissioned by the opposition Labour Party called for the establishment of an independent National Infrastructure Commission to identify the United Kingdom's long-term infrastructure needs, and to monitor the plans developed by governments to meet them. It said that cross-party political consensus, public support, and investor certainty were needed for long-term decisions to be made on energy, transport, water, waste, flood defences, and telecommunications needs.
Source: The Armitt Review, Labour Party
Links: Report | Labour Party press release | BCC press release | CBI press release | ICE press release | Population Matters press release | TCPA press release | TUC press release | BBC report | Guardian report | Public Finance report
Notes: John Armitt was Chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority.
A think-tank report said that the government could save as much as £70 billion by 2020 if it adopted plans to eliminate paper and digitize its activities, work smarter with fewer staff in Whitehall, shop around for the best procurement deals, and accelerate the use of data and analytics.
Source: Chris Yiu (with Sarah Fink), Smaller, Better, Faster, Stronger: Remaking government for the digital age, Policy Exchange
A report by a committee of MPs expressed concern that the coalition government was not acting with sufficient urgency to promote integrated working in front-line public services. It contrasted limited progress in central government with the whole-place community budgets programme, which had involved local public bodies and central government working together to develop evidence-based plans for new integrated services.
Source: Integration across Government and Whole-Place Community Budgets, Fourteenth Report (Session 2013-14), HC 472, House of Commons Public Accounts Select Committee, TSO
A report by a committee of MPs said that effective early action by government could help to deal with a variety of social problems: but the Treasury was far too focused on the short term, meaning that it risked missing the opportunity to help stabilize the public finances over the longer term, improve outcomes for citizens, and get better value for money. There was a shortage of good evidence on the effectiveness of early action, and existing incentives did not seem to be working. Most early intervention grants were not ring-fenced. Despite some encouraging evidence of joint working among departments and at the local level, 'silo behaviour' still predominated. The Treasury needed to adopt an integrated, long-term, preventative approach to public spending.
Source: Early Action: Landscape Review, Second Report (Session 2013-14), HC 133, House of Commons Public Accounts Select Committee, TSO
A report said that public services in Wales faced unprecedented financial and demand pressures. While spending was going down, demand in key areas was set to increase and expectations of service quality were rising. The funding gap would therefore continue to rise, even when the period of austerity came to an end. If priority areas such as health, social care, and schools were protected by increasing spending to meet demand pressures, there would be reduced funding for other areas such as refuse collection, housing, street lighting, and roads maintenance. By 2024-25, spending on health alone could rise from 42 per cent of the Welsh Government's revenue budget to 57 per cent in a 'base case' and 67 per cent in a 'worst case' scenario.
Source: Mark Jeffs, Future Pressures on Welsh Public Services: Financial, demand and other cost pressures and a review of potential responses, Wales Public Services 2025
An article examined said that government interventions ought to be more overt than was traditionally advocated by adherents of a behavioural economics approach. Governments should principally attempt to influence behaviour if the acts of those targeted were causing harm to others. Behavioural economics might be used more appropriately in the public sector to help inform regulation that 'budged', rather than 'nudged', harmful private sector activities.
Source: Adam Oliver, 'From nudging to budging: using behavioural economics to inform public sector policy', Journal of Social Policy, Volume 42 Issue 4
A think-tank paper identified ten principles underpinning a citizen-centred model of 'whole system' reform of public services: build readiness; prevent the preventable; prioritize relationships; combine functions; co-produce services; co-locate the public estate; 'cultivate the willing'; reduce inequalities; 'commit to common'; and 'tell the story of our lives'.
Source: David Robinson, 10 Principles for Better Government, Institute for Public Policy Research
A new book examined innovative methods aimed at helping over-burdened and under-funded public services in Europe cope with the demands of austerity and continue to deliver high-quality services to the public.
Source: Pekka Valkama, Stephen Bailey, and Ari-Veikko Anttiroiko (eds), Organizational Innovation in Public Services: Forms and governance, Palgrave Macmillan
Notes: Chapters included:
'Supporting organisational innovation in the public sector: creative councils in England'
'Organisational innovation in public procurement in Scotland: the Scottish Futures Trust (SFT)'
'Championing and governing UK public service mutuals'
A report said that public servants who formed mutual organizations to take control of their services needed better access to external finance.
Source: Adrian Brown and Louis Watt, Soft Finance, Hard Choices: A review of the finance market for public service mutuals, Cabinet Office
A think-tank report highlighted a wide range of problems with the coalition government's programme of privatizing public services. Many of the 'markets' being created for public services were reducing competition and choice, rather than enhancing them. Plans to expand markets in public services should be postponed, because central government lacked the expertise to design and manage complex contracts effectively.
Source: Tom Gash, Nehal Panchamia, Sam Sims, and Louisa Hotson, Making Public Service Markets Work: Professionalising governments approach to commissioning and market stewardship, Institute for Government
The Cabinet Office published its annual report for 2012-13.
Source: Annual Report and Accounts 2012-13, HC 15, Cabinet Office, TSO
A paper examined the role of public services in fostering a more equal society. It called for a different model of public services based on: an active, enabling state that brought a full range of public, private, and social resources to bear; and a new culture of shared values and responsibilities across the whole economy.
Source: Henry Kippin, Public Services and Equality: Why they matter, and why we need a new approach, 2020 Public Services Hub
A think-tank report said that harnessing private cash to finance public services via 'social impact bonds' could be an important way to boost innovation in these services: but it was unlikely to appeal to mainstream investors because of the 'impossibly high' risks that they would have to shoulder.
Source: Nigel Keohane, Ian Mulheirn, and Ryan Shorthouse, Risky Business: Social impact bonds and public services, Social Market Foundation
A series of linked reports examined what value the mutualization of public services might or might not bring, or whether other enterprise solutions could better meet local needs and circumstances.
Source: Richard Hazenberg and Kelly Hall, Barriers and Solutions to Public Sector Spin Outs, Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce | A Practitioners Guide to Spinning out from Public Ownership, Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce | Atif Shafique, New Approaches to Commissioning and Public Service Mutuals: Lessons from co-operative councils, Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce | Richard Hazenberg, Kelly Hall, and Allison Ogden-Newton, Public Service Mutuals: Spinning out or Standing Still?, Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce
A new book examined the history and politics of attempts to reform public sector organizations in recent decades.
Source: Michael Burton, The Politics of Public Sector Reform: From Thatcher to the coalition, Palgrave Macmillan
A paper examined the conceptualization of choice as autonomy using three components self-reflection, active decision-making, and quality and range of options and investigated empirical inequalities in autonomy. 'Choice' had been often been promoted in social policy as instrumentally valuable: but egalitarian and capability-based theories of social justice supported the idea that choice (or autonomy) had an intrinsic value. Limited autonomy was correlated with socio-economic disadvantage: disabled people were most likely to experience constrained autonomy in all respects, and being from a low socio-economic group and/or lacking educational qualifications was also a risk factor across several components. This pointed to the importance of taking into account underlying inequalities when developing choice-based policies. Major structural inequalities associated with restricted autonomy needed to be addressed poverty, ill-health, and geographical inequality.
Source: Tania Burchardt, Martin Evans, and Holly Holder, Public Policy and Inequalities of Choice and Autonomy, CASEpaper 174, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (London School of Economics)
An article examined the previous Labour governments' use (1997-2010) of public-private partnerships to build public services infrastructure, and how far this approach had been successful in achieving the objectives intended.
Source: Paul Hare, 'PPP and PFI: the political economy of building public infrastructure and delivering services', Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Volume 29 Number 1
A report summarized a set of five papers that examined the policies of the former Labour government (1997-2010), charting their impact on the distribution of outcomes, and on poverty and inequality. Labour had set out an ambitious agenda to improve outcomes overall, narrow socio-economic gaps, and modernize public services:
Public spending went up from 39.5 to 47.4 per cent of national income. This was a large rise: but until the 2008 global crisis, spending levels were unexceptional by historic standards.
The extra spending went mainly on services. Health and education both increased as a proportion of all public spending.
Nearly all the extra cash spent on benefits went on children and pensioners. Benefits for working-age people unrelated to having children fell as a proportion of national income.
Access and quality in public services improved, including waiting times for health services and pupil-teacher ratios.
Outcomes improved and gaps closed on virtually all the socio-economic indicators targeted, such as poverty for children and pensioners, and school attainment.
But there was no progress in some areas that were not subject to explicit targets: poverty for working-age people without children rose; there was no real change in levels of income inequality; and disparities in regional economic performance persisted.
Source: Ruth Lupton (with John Hills, Kitty Stewart, and Polly Vizard), Labours Social Policy Record: Policy, spending and outcomes 1997-2010, Social Policy in a Cold Climate Research Report 1, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (London School of Economics)
Notes: Details of individual papers:
Polly Vizard and Polina Obolenskaya, Labours Record on Health (1997-2010), Social Policy in a Cold Climate Working Paper 2
Ruth Lupton and Polina Obolenskaya, Labours Record on Education: Policy, Spending and Outcomes 1997-2010, Social Policy in a Cold Climate Working Paper 3
Kitty Stewart, Labours Record on the Under Fives: Policy, Spending and Outcomes 1997-2010, Social Policy in a Cold Climate Working Paper 4
John Hills, Labours Record on Cash Transfers, Poverty, Inequality and the Lifecycle 1997-2010, Social Policy in a Cold Climate Working Paper 5
Ruth Lupton, Alex Fenton, and Amanda Fitzgerald, Labours Record on Neighbourhood Renewal in England: Policy, Spending and Outcomes 1997-2010, Social Policy in a Cold Climate Working Paper 6
A report by a committee of MSPs expressed disappointment over 'patchy' progress in public services reform, and at a systemic lack of appetite for change among stakeholders, many of whom lacked the can-do attitude needed to drive reform.
Source: Public Services Reform in Scotland: Strand 3 Developing New Ways of Delivering Services, 9th Report 2013, SP Paper 370, Scottish Parliament Local Government and Regeneration Committee
A paper examined the impact of including the value of public healthcare, long-term care, education, and childcare on estimates of income inequality and financial poverty in 23 European countries. To account for the fact that the receipt of public services was associated with particular needs, a theory-based common equivalence scale was introduced, termed the needs-adjusted European Union scale. Even though the ranking of countries by estimates of overall inequality and poverty proved to be only slightly affected by the choice between the conventional scale (accounting only for the size of the household) and the adjusted scale, poverty estimates by household types were shown to be significantly affected by the choice of equivalence scale.
Source: Rolf Aaberge, Audun Langorgen, and Petter Lindgren, The Distributional Impact of Public Services in European Countries: 2013 edition, Eurostat (European Union)
The coalition government published a charter setting out a series of principles designed to increase choice in public services, and defining what users should receive from services. It also published its initial response to an independent review (by David Boyle) into the barriers to choice in public services.
Source: Choice Charter, Cabinet Office | The Initial Government Response to the Independent Review into the Barriers to Choice in Public Services, Cabinet Office
See also: Boyle review (January 2013)
A think-tank report called for sweeping changes in the way public services were delivered. It said that the state's right to monopoly provision of public services should be taken away, and an attack launched on 'powerful vested interests at the top of the trade union movement'. Private companies and voluntary groups should be able to compete in an open and transparent process to provide services to the public. A new legal right would be established giving people the right to exercise choice in the public services that they 'consumed'.
Source: Sean Worth, Better Public Services: A roadmap for revolution, Policy Exchange
A think-tank report put forward the case for universalism, in the face of a 'growing acceptance' that in order to protect vital public services the ideal of universal coverage should be abandoned in favour of selectivity. It said that universalism meant progressive, redistributive taxation, together with the seamless provision of social welfare for all in a linked social system. Universalism had produced the most effective society that civilization had yet achieved, and would be undermined at society's peril.
Source: Mike Danson, Paul Spicker, Robin McAlpine, and Willie Sullivan, The Case for Universalism: Assessing the evidence, Centre for Labour and Social Studies
A research note examined the conceptual framework for delineating public/private boundaries in welfare provision. It said that a framework based on three dimensions finance, provision, and decision continued to be suitable, with some modifications.
Source: Tania Burchardt, Re-Visiting the Conceptual Framework for Public/Private Boundaries in Welfare, Research Note RN002, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (London School of Economics)
A report called for greater design thinking to be introduced across the public sector, in order to ensure that public services were made both more responsive to users' needs and more cost-effective.
Source: Restarting Britain 2: Design and public services, Design Council
A report said that public finance in Scotland had failed to keep pace with the shift to results-based services elsewhere. Public bodies' systems were still geared towards supporting internal organizational functions rather than policy programmes that had the potential to boost local economies and transform citizens' quality of life.
Source: Public Finances: At the Edge of Chaos and Ready for Outcomes?, Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy Scotland
An article examined place-based leadership and public service innovation. Place-based leadership could influence whether political spaces were used to promote creative problem solving or whether they became arenas for dispute and friction between sectional perspectives. It suggested that an imaginative approach to place-based leadership one that accepted intelligent risk taking offered potential for improving the local quality of life as well as strengthening local democracy.
Source: Robin Hambleton and Joanna Howard, 'Place-based leadership and public service innovation', Local Government Studies, Volume 39 Issue 1
An audit report said that although there was scope for greater use of online public services, there were still significant numbers of people who could not go online or did not wish to do so either because they preferred face-to-face contact or were unwilling to provide personal information online. Government departments needed to plan for around 4 million people in England who were likely to need help in using online services.
Source: Digital Britain 2: Putting users at the heart of government's digital services, HC 1048 (Session 201213), National Audit Office, TSO
A new book examined how trust and confidence affected public services, and the role of regulation and leadership in boosting them.
Source: Stephen Brookes, Ann Mahon, and Sue Llewellyn (eds), Trust and Confidence in Government and Public Services, Routledge
A new book examined institutional changes, welfare reforms, and transformations in governance in the United Kingdom and Italy over the previous three decades. Although it had been widely expected that the arena of social and economic governance would shift to the national level, both the countries had seen the sub-national level of governance became crucial in redefining public services, and in designing, delivering, and monitoring key services.
Source: Alberto Brugnoli and Alessandro Colombo (eds), Government, Governance and Welfare Reform: Structural changes and subsidiarity in Italy and Britain, Edward Elgar Publishing
An audit report said that 'early action' early deployment of resources by public bodies to prevent problems occurring or getting worse in service provision had the potential to result in better outcomes and greater value for money. But there was little evidence that the coalition government had shifted significant resources to early action projects, or of cross-government co-ordination. Determined leadership was necessary to divert resources away from pressing and highly visible existing needs, in line with public expectations, towards long-term early action programmes, particularly at times of fiscal austerity.
Source: Early Action: Landscape Review, HC 683 (Session 201213), National Audit Office, TSO
An audit report highlighted a series of 'key risks' to the value for money of projects included in the government's national infrastructure plan (such as energy, rail, roads, water, waste, flood defences, and digital communications). It made a series of recommendations to help ensure that value for money was achieved. It called for greater clarity for consumers regarding the financial impact of planned infrastructure investment.
Source: Planning for Economic Infrastructure, HC 595 (Session 201213), National Audit Office, TSO
The report of an independent (government commissioned) review said that people wanted a broader choice in the public services available and how they were delivered. Bureaucratic barriers to choice remain powerful for people who were less confident or articulate, or who wanted something slightly out of the mainstream. People, especially those who were disadvantaged, needed information and advice on what choices were available to them: yet often this proved problematic, with some people lacking easy access to the internet. The kind of choices that people thought they were getting were often not what they were being offered in reality, and there was a need for more flexibility in the way services were delivered.
Source: David Boyle, The Barriers to Choice Review: How are people using choice in public services?, Cabinet Office
An article examined the impact of austerity in the United Kingdom public finances on the Scottish Government. In response to rising demand for public services and falling revenue expenditure, the Scottish Government had set up the Independent Budget Review in 2010 and Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services in 2011, both of which had reported. As a result of these reports, and a wider push towards an outcomes approach in Scottish policy, Scotland was witnessing a return to place-based policies, or area-based initiatives focused on specific neighbourhoods.
Source: Peter Matthews, 'The return of place in Scottish social policy', Local Economy, Volume 28 Number 1
An article presented a review of the literature on activism by middle-class service-users, bringing together evidence from the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and Scandinavian countries over the previous 30 years. The aim was to understand how and in which contexts collective and individual activity by middle-class service-users might produce inequitable resource allocation or rationing decisions that disproportionately benefited middle-class service-users. It identified ways in which advantage accrued via the interplay between service-users, providers, and the broader policy and social context.
Source: Peter Matthews and Annette Hastings, 'Middle-class political activism and middle-class advantage in relation to public services: a realist synthesis of the evidence base', Social Policy and Administration, Volume 47 Number 1