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Welfare Reform on the Web (November 2009): Welfare state - UK

Canada's cuts and Sweden's schools: are they a blueprint for Cameron?

T. Leonard

Daily Telegraph, Oct. 23rd 2009, p. 16-17

Conservatives are examining the example of Canada, which eliminated a huge deficit in the public finances in three years in the 1990s through ruthless cuts in government spending. There were extensive cutbacks in spending on health, education, and unemployment benefits. Industrial and agricultural subsidies were slashed and transport spending was cut by half. The Conservatives have also been impressed by Sweden's system of free schools. Any group of parents, teachers, companies or charities can set up a school. Parents are given a voucher to pay for their child's education which they can cash at any state or free school.

Crisis means doubly hard times for voluntary sector

Anon.

Labour Research, Oct. 2009, p. 13-16

The voluntary sector is facing a fall in income due to the recession and its workforce is contracting. Remaining staff are facing increased workloads and pay freezes or cuts. This is impacting on the sector's ability to provide services to some of the most vulnerable groups in society. Unions wish to see more creative thought going into maintaining employment.

History in the re-making

M. Hunter

Community Care, Sept. 24th 2009, p. 16-17

Social enterprises have their origins in the nineteenth century co-operative movement, but their potential for innovative public service delivery has been recognised by the New Labour government. Their ethos fits well with that of modern social care, and they may offer staff more pleasant working conditions than statutory bureaucracies or the private sector.

Promises, promises

J. Bartlett

Public Finance, Sept. 25th-Oct. 1st 2009, p. 20-23

Argues that the New Labour government significantly improved the public services including health and education. It delivered improved literacy levels, reduced waiting times for NHS treatment, better hospitals and lower crime. However the public is not grateful and is still dissatisfied with services. The author attributes this to:

  1. new Labour's over-emphasis on government's capacity to change things
  2. its obsession with presentation
  3. its failure to define the role of the public services in the 21st century.

Sickness benefit cheats to face new Tory test

R. Winnett and A. Porter

Daily Telegraph, Oct. 2nd 2009, p.1 + 2; 6

In advance of their 2009 Party Conference, the Conservatives have suggested that, if they win the 2010 general election:

  • all Incapacity Benefit claimants would be medically tested within three years to see if they are fit to work.
  • those pronounced fit would be transferred to Jobseekers' Allowance and made to look for work
  • patients will be allowed to choose which doctor or surgeon treats them in hospital after consulting performance tables
  • hundreds of failing local authority schools will be closed and turned into academies
  • free residential care will be provided for elderly people in exchange for their taking out an 8,000 insurance policy when they retire.

We're all in this together

A. Porter and R. Winnett

Daily Telegraph, Oct. 7th 2009, p. 1+ 4

The shadow chancellor, George Osborne, has promised massive cuts in public spending if the Conservatives win the 2010 general election. From a welfare reform point of view, they would:

  1. freeze public sector pay for one year from 2011 for all those earning more than 18,000, including doctors, nurses and teachers
  2. raise the state pension age for men by one year to 66 from 2016
  3. abolish 250.00 baby bonds and tax credits for families earning over 50,000 per year
  4. cap civil service pensions at 50,000 per year.

Weathering the storm

M. Prowle

Public Finance, Oct. 9th-15th 2009, p. 20-23

A combination of the economic crisis, population ageing, and energy and environmental issues are putting huge pressure on government finances. Radical reform of public service provision is required and a return to 'business as usual' is not an option. The author discusses a range of alternatives, including hypothecated taxes such as an NHS tax, reducing staff costs, and withdrawing services which the state can no longer afford. He recommends devolving responsibility for public service provision to local authorities with incentives to encourage efficiency and innovation at the local level..

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