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Welfare Reform on the Web (August 2010): Welfare state - UK

The axeman cometh

R. Crawford and G. Tetlow

Public Finance, July 2nd-15th 2010, p. 16-17

The plans laid out by the coalition government imply the longest and deepest sustained period of cuts in spending on public services since World War II. This will inevitably reduce the quality or quantity of public services available. The Spending Review of Autumn 2010 will reveal which public services will be maintained, which will be abandoned and which will be cut back, although the government has promised to protect spending on the NHS and international aid.

The inside track

S. Freer

Public Finance, July 2nd-15th 2010, p. 18-19

Under the new coalition government, UK government departments and agencies face the challenge of making cuts of up to 25% in their budgets while seeking to protect frontline public services. At a strategic level, three approaches can be pursued:

  1. redefining the relationship between the state and the individual
  2. a significant de-layering of the public sector, with more decisions taken locally with minimum oversight
  3. a major initiative to maximise economies by much more effective collaboration between public bodies.

Pain with a purpose

C. Talbot

Public Finance, June 18th-24th 2010, p. 18-19

The author argues that the coalition government may have made a strategic decision to reduce public spending from its historic average of 43% of GDP to about 36%. This would entail radically downsizing the state, including drastically reducing spending on social welfare, with gaps being plugged, if at all, by the voluntary sector.

Public service improvement: theories and evidence

R. Ashworth and others (editors)

Oxford: OUP, 2010

The performance of the public services, from education and policing to health and recycling, is a matter of concern in many countries. Issues of public service efficiency, cost, and effectiveness have moved to the forefront of political debate. This book applies the latest thinking from Management and Organization Studies to the performance of public organizations in order to evaluate the merits of different mechanisms for driving improvement in the public sector. Research on the private sector has identified a number of 'drivers' of improved performance, including innovation, organizational culture, leadership, and strategic planning. Many of these 'private sector' characteristics have emerged within public sector organisations in recent years. However, public managers face additional pressures, whether from regulators, constrained resources, or political interference. This book takes each of these drivers in turn and assesses whether they lead to improvement in public services.

Total public service output, inputs and productivity

M. G. Phelps and others

Office for National Statistics, 2010

This report calculates public service productivity by counting the number of procedures carried out in hospitals, pupils taught in schools, and elderly people cared for in nursing homes, etc (classified as 'outputs') as well as the number of people employed by the state and equipment bought for them to do their jobs (classified as 'inputs'). It found that the amount of labour and assets used by the public sector had increased by an average of 3.2% per year between 1997 and 2008. Activity increased by smaller amounts, averaging 2.9% per year. Because inputs grew a little faster than outputs, productivity over the whole period of Labour government fell, on average, by 0.3%. Productivity in the field of social care for the elderly and disabled fell by 15.3% and declined by 4.3% in health and education. At the same time productivity grew by 1.9% in children's social care, and by 7% in social security administration and the distribution of benefits.

Town halls merge services to reduce their spending

J. Sherman

The Times, July 5th 2010, p. 6

Hammersmith & Fulham and Westminster councils in London are to merge their education departments and children's services in an attempt to save 100m. Westminster is considering sharing other services with other London Boroughs. The move is expected to mean job losses.

The welfare politics of Charles Murray are alive and well in the UK

S.J. Prideaux

International Journal of Social Welfare, vol.19, 2010, p. 293-302

Recent statements by David Cameron and the Conservative Party about broken Britain echo Charles Murray's theories, promulgated and hotly debated in the 1980s and 1990s, about the rise of an unruly and welfare dependent underclass. Like New Labour, Cameron advocates paid work as the remedy for poverty and other social evils, and stigmatises those who refuse to participate in welfare to work programmes or join the labour market as irresponsible. The author argues that economic inactivity is not simply a product of a culture of welfare dependency, but arises from socioeconomic issues such as a lack of secure, permanent jobs, a belief among single parents that their responsibility to be a good mother is incompatible with paid work, reluctance to move away from family, etc.

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