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Welfare Reform on the Web (August 2011): Welfare state - UK

Beyond social mobility

N. Pearce

Public Policy Research, Mar.-May 2011, p. 3-9

Over the last two decades the UK's major political parties have converged on the goal of increasing social mobility. Yet below the surface of the cross party consensus on the importance of social mobility, real differences are now emerging in how the concept is defined. This is informing their respective approaches to reforming public services and the welfare state. This article examines these shifts and what they tell us about how the political landscape in Britain is changing. It suggests that despite its dominance in elite policy and media circles, social mobility is becoming an increasingly narrow concept and one that is losing its relevance to the real challenges facing public policy as well as its narrative power and political purchase on the electorate. While equality of opportunity and personal aspiration remain at the heart of the political battleground in Britain, social mobility is becoming an increasingly attenuated means of addressing these ambitions.

The Big Con: reframing the state/society debate

H. Tam

Public Policy Research, Mar.-May 2011, p. 30-40

This article presents a critique of the Coalition's 'Big Society' policy agenda and argues that it is not a platform for citizen engagement and localised service provision but a barely concealed 'small state' agenda, with much in common with Thatcherite policies of the 1980s. The new Big Society vision is presented as a development from the blunt neo-conservative stance of the 1980s (don't expect the government to help you if you can't make it in the market) to a position of 'the less the government does for you, the better off you and society would be in sorting things out'.

BMA fears over surgery death tables

J. Sherman and C. Smyth

The Times, July 7th 2011, p.3

In order to improve transparency, the Government is releasing more data as 'open data can be a powerful tool to help reform public service, foster innovation and empower citizens.' Parents will be given more data about the performance of individual schools. Data on roadworks and road conditions will be made available. Criminal courts will be open to scrutiny from November 2011 when data will be published giving the age, gender and ethnicity of people being sentenced and the length of jail terms. Reoffending rates will be published from October 2011. From December 2011 death rates for specialist surgeons will be published for the first time as well as comparisons of prescribing rates between GP practices showing which drugs are given to patients and in what quantity. The BMA is concerned that the creation of 'simplistic league tables' could mislead the public because without the context of the local population it would be impossible to interpret the figures.

Charities chief presses PM to avoid caving in on public sector reform

J. Sherman

The Times, July 8th 2011, p. 18

In advance of the White Paper on public service reform which was expected to include radical plans to encourage the private and voluntary sectors to take over health, education and council services, charity chiefs urged Cameron not to water down government plans by giving in to vested interests.

Let schools fail to secure reforms, ministers urged

P. Curtis

The Guardian, July 11th 2011, p. 8

Ministers have been privately advised to allow schools and hospitals to fail if the government is to succeed in its overhaul of public services, confidential documents reveal. The prime minister will announce long-awaited plans to 'end the state's monopoly' over public services and give people more 'choice and control' over what they use, in a white paper opening up swaths of the public sector to private companies, charities and mutuals. David Cameron will claim that the welfare state is failing, and promise to 'release the grip of state control and [put] power in people's hands'. But documents obtained by the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act reveal research by civil servants warning that markets are susceptible to 'failure' and costs could in fact rise unless a true market is created by allowing public services to collapse if they are unsuccessful. It opens up the potential for schools, hospitals, social care systems and nurseries to fold without the government stepping in to prop them up. Labour called it an 'appalling revelation'.

Open Public Services White Paper

H M Government

London: TSO, 2011 (Cm 8145)

The White Paper on public service reform aims to open up nearly all of them to competition from the private and voluntary sectors. It enshrines a duty on public sector bodies to tender all their contracts to private providers and a right to choice for consumers in individual services in areas such as education, health, social care and housing. The only services not opened to competition will be the police, the judiciary and security services. It proposes that the charity Which? should extend its remit to assess products and services in the public as well as the private sector. The powers of parish councils will be extended to allow them to impose parking charges, take over leisure centres and even close down strip clubs as they take more responsibility for running neighbourhoods.

The retreat of the state: Conservative 'modernisation' and the public services

S. Griffiths

Public Policy Research, Mar.-May 2011, p. 23-29

One year after the 2010 general election, the coalition government is proving more right wing than expected. In particular, Prime Minister Cameron is dogmatically promoting a form of economic liberalism, involving a smaller state and marketised provision of public services. This article examines claims made before the election that Cameron was a moderniser who would mark a return to 'One Nation Conservatism', with its support for an active state to promote social ends. It then explores how this squares with the Coalition's radical reforms of public services during its first year in office. It compares the Coalition's approach to public service reform with that pursued by New Labour after 1997, and concludes by briefly suggesting an alternative view of the state, one that does not reject the argument for public service reform, but which draws more directly on empowerment of citizens as an end.

Sharper axes, lower taxes

P. Booth (editor)

Institute of Economic Affairs, 2011

This report argues - among other things - that the current welfare system discriminates strongly against work, family formation and saving. Welfare should be completely reformed to provide income supplements through a negative income tax with household tax allowances. Furthermore, welfare claimants without jobs and who are of working age should be required to undertake work as a condition of receiving benefits. Reforming welfare and related changes to pensions would save 46.5 billion a year. Furthermore, the National Health Service should be replaced by health savings accounts with insurance for catastrophic risks. Experience from other countries suggests that this can lead to better outcomes, lower costs and much stronger incentives for health promotion. This reform would save 44 billion a year. More radical reform of education to save over 15 billion is required: reforms should include parents making some contribution to the cost of their children's education.


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