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Welfare Reform on the Web (August 2001): Welfare State - UK

AFTER THE LANDSLIDE, WHAT'S NEXT FOR BLAIR?

S. Jenkins

Times, June 8th 2001, p.22.

Argues that the priority of the Labour government in its second term must be to improve public services. Its efforts at reform will be exposed by occupational interest groups exploiting monopoly power (police, doctors and teachers). Suggests that in order to counter this professional intransigence the government should hand over responsibility for service delivery to autonomous local bodies which would control pay and conditions.

BATTLE LINES DRAWN ON PUBLIC SERVICES

A. Kaletsky

Times, June 5th 2001, p.20.

Public spending in Britain currently consumes 40% of public spending compared with a European average of 45%. The difference is mostly accounted for by the fact that in Europe pensions are entirely paid by the state, whereas in the UK the cost of retirement is mainly born by private and occupational schemes. The UK therefore spends about the same as other European countries on public services. However, the money is used to fund relatively high pay for health and education workers, while at the same time the Treasury deliberately restricts their numbers in order to raise productivity.

THE BITTER BATTLE OVER PUBLIC SERVICES

Daily Telegraph, June 1st 2001, p.9.

Summarises the three main parties' policies on health and education, with commentary.

BLAIR PROMISE ON SUB-STANDARD PUBLIC SERVICES

N. Watt

Guardian, May 22nd 2001, p.13 + 16.

Reports speech by Tony Blair outlining Labour Party plans for public service reform. In a second term Labour would: reward high performing schools and hospitals with greater autonomy from Whitehall; rebuild public services around the consumer; encourage public-private partnerships; and support staff in the public sector.

(See also Independent, May 22nd 2001, p.7).

BUILDING BETTER PARTNERSHIPS

Commission on Public-Private Partnerships

London: Institute for Public Policy Research, 2001.

Report calls for an end to the distinction between core and ancillary services which has prevented the government from contracting out clinical services to private sector healthcare providers. Proposes that private contractors should provide schooling, hospital and GP care. Argues that there should be a growing diversity of public, private and voluntary providers to allow failing services to be switched to another provider. However, it concludes that staff transferring to the private sector need stronger protection and is fiercely critical of the present running of the private finance initiative. Concludes that financial rules should be changed to allow fairer comparison between privately funded and publicly funded projects, making it clear that PFI is not extra investment but spending that has to be paid for.

(See also Financial Times, June 18th 2001, p.19).

COUNCILS OPPOSE ANY CASH DIVERSION

A.U. Sale

Community Care, no. 1372, 2001, p.10.

Reports adverse reaction from local government to leaked government plans to divert funding for councils from the South to the North of England.

DELIVERY TIME FOR PUBLIC SERVICES

P. Wintour

Guardian, June 8th 2001, p.7.

The priority of the Labour government in its second term must be improvement of the public services such as health and education through massive investment. In return for the investment it will demand reforms which will be opposed by public sector unions.

ELECTION 2001: THE CONSERVATIVES' PROPOSALS

T. Clark and H. Reed.

London: Institute for Fiscal Studies, 2001 (Briefing notes; 7).

Concludes that savings made by cutting back on administration and reducing fraud will not cover the 8bn tax cuts proposed by the Conservatives. They would have to be achieved by cutting expenditure on public services.

EUROPE HOLDS LESSONS FOR OUR SCHOOLS AND HOSPITALS

A. Kaletsky and R. Marris

Times, May 22nd 2001, p.20.

Argues that UK schools and hospitals perform poorly compared to Europe because they are chronically understaffed, although teachers and health professionals are comparatively well paid.

INCOME INEQUALITY: WHAT HAS HAPPENED UNDER NEW LABOUR?

A. Goodman

New Economy, vol.8, 2001, p.92-97.

Shows that income inequality is now higher than before Labour came into power. Under Labour, the living standards of the poorest have risen and tax and benefit changes have favoured the poor. However, overall, proportional income gains among the poorest in society have been smaller than among the rich.

THE NEW MUTUALISM IN PUBLIC POLICY

J. Birchall (ed.)

London: Routledge, 2001.

This book examines the meaning of new mutualism under new labour and asks, 'whether demutualisation matters, and whether new mutualist rhetoric has any substance'. The book looks at established types of mutual businesses such as building societies, credit unions, housing co-ops and examines their strengths and weaknesses. Each chapter discusses the mutuality of one business area. It argues that, 'mutuals can run public services better than local authorities and privatized utilities better than investors-owned companies.

PAYING FOR PATIENTS

J. Freedland

Guardian, May 23rd 2001, p.23.

Both the Conservative and Labour Parties are committed to the privatisation or contracting out of the core public services of healthcare and education. The difference is that, under Labour, services would be state funded and free at the point of use, whereas under the Tories citizens would pay directly for their children's schooling and their own health care.

A PIECE OF PAPER AND A TEAM OF LAWYERS ISN'T ENOUGH

H. Wainwright

Guardian, May 31st 2001, p.24.

Comments on the trend for contracting out public services such as health and education to the private sector. Problems with contracts between the state and private companies include:

  • the fact that many aspects of a high quality service cannot be legally summarised;
  • the fact that most private companies refuse open access to information on the grounds of commercial confidentiality;
  • lack of genuine competition between providers;
  • adverse impact on the pay and conditions of the workforce in the pursuit of profit.

THE PRICE OF REBELLION

I. MacWhirter

Public Finance, June 1st-7th 2001, p.17.

The Scottish Labour Party is firmly opposed to the introduction of private sector management in schools and hospitals. However health care and education already cost more per head in Scotland than in England. Spending on these areas is set to decline relative to the UK average because of the Barnett Formula. Private Sector involvement could save money.

PROMISES, PROMISES

R. Downey

Community Care, no. 1374, 2001, p.28-30.

Article reports on how the Labour government is progressing in regard to meeting the targets it has set itself for reducing social inequalities and ending social exclusion. Ends by summarising Conservative and Liberal Democrat Party policy proposals.

THE QUEEN'S SPEECH

Daily Telegraph, June 21st 2001, p.10-13

The newly elected government will focus on public service reform. An NHS Reform Bill will devolve 75% of the NHS budget to primary care trusts. Health Authorities will be abolished in Wales and reduced in numbers in England. An Education Bill will allow successful schools to bypass local education authorities and buy in services directly from the private sector. Companies, churches and voluntary groups will be able to manage any school. A Tax Credit Bill will abolish three existing tax credits, the Working Families Tax Credit, the Children's Tax Credit and the Disabled Persons Tax Credit. These will be replaced by a tax credit for families with children, paid whether or not the household is workless, and a credit for working adults on low incomes. A separate Pension Credit Bill will guarantee a minimum income for pensioners and reward those who have saved for their old age. Finally, a Welfare Reform Bill will introduce the requirement for partners of people claiming out-of-work benefits to attend work-focused interviews. Incapacity Benefit will also be reformed to encourage claimants to return to work.

(See also Times, June 21st 2001, p.9-12; Independent, June 21st 2001, p.6-9; Guardian, June 21st 2001, p.6-7; Financial Times, June 21st 2001, p.4-7).

SOCIAL WELFARE: A SCOTTISH PERSPECTIVE

M. Chakrabarti (ed.)

Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001-07-16

Book acknowledges the fact that, historically, the Scottish legislative base has been different from the rest of the country, and explores the impact of these differences on welfare institutions and service provision. Also critically investigates the changes being currently implemented in Scotland within the desegregated local authority structure, exposing the resource implications for service providers. Covers policy issues ranging from poverty and social security to healthcare, education and criminal justice. An analysis of the relevant laws is built into every chapter, together with an investigation of the implications of social and welfare policies for family structure, class and ethnicity.

THERE MUST BE BANKS FOR THE POOR AS WELL AS THE RICH

P. Toynbee

Guardian, May 4th 2001, p.16.

Credit Unions set up to help some of the poorest communities are seeing a small tragedy unfold. Over lenient lending has led to the first credit union bank to have its books frozen. The FSA is doing what it can but the Treasury is not willing to step in from fear of setting a precedent for bailing others out. However, as of July 2002 a new law designed to strengthen credit unions will bring their members under the same umbrella as banks, protecting savers from future collapse. Article goes on to discuss the issue of financial exclusion and how the Labour government has been tackling it.

TIPTOEING INTO THE MINEFIELD

P. Wintour

Guardian, May 29th 2001, p.14.

Article examines the case for greater private and voluntary sector involvement in the delivery of public services through contracting out. Advantages include the option of ejecting failing providers and the introduction of competition between potential providers, which should improve quality and drive down costs.

UNDER THE KNIFE

S. Milne

Guardian, May 23rd 2001, p.23.

All three main political parties in the UK are committed to privatisation and contracting out of core public services such as health and education. Author argues that private companies often deliver lower quality services in order to maximise profits and make savings by driving down staff wages.

UNIONS FORCE PRIVATE DEALS RETREAT

T. Baldwin

Times, May 25th 2001, p.1.

Labour has moved to assuage fears of public sector unions about the impact of using private firms to deliver public services in areas such as health and education. Party leaders promised that services would always remain free at the point of use and that the pay and conditions of employees asked to work in the private sector would be protected.

(See also Guardian, May 25th 2001, p.16; Guardian, May 24th 2001, p.1+21; Independent, May 25th 2001, p.1).

UNIONS TO PROTEST AT PRIVATISATION OF PUBLIC SERVICES

B. Russell

Independent, June 20th 2001, p.6.

Reports widespread union unease over government plans to extend the private sector delivery of public services.

(See also Financial Times, June 20th 2001, p.8; Municipal Journal, June 22nd 2001, p.5; Financial Times, June 21st 2001, p.2).

VALUE DRIVEN

R. Pearce and A. Ali

Third Sector, issue 207, 2001, p.15.

Discusses the impact of "best value" on the development of partnerships between the voluntary sector and local authorities for the delivery of local services.

VOLUNTEERING FOR ADDED VALUE

R. Pearce and A.A. Ali

Municipal Journal, June 22nd 2001, p.16.

Discusses how local authorities can work in partnership with the voluntary sector to deliver services to their communities in innovative ways.

THE WAY BLAIR MUST REFORM PUBLIC SERVICES

A. Kaletsky

Times, June 14th 2001, p.18.

Argues that Labour will approach public service reform through private sector management techniques such as performance-related pay and statistical measurement of efficiency. Such will not necessarily improve quality and will foster a production-line approach to service. Suggests an alternative approach of allowing consumers to purchase services directly through some kind of modified market.

WHAT CAN WE FIND TO FRET ABOUT NOW?

M. A. Sieghart

Times, May 25th 2001, p.20.

Argues that, in times of relative economic security, the fears of the middle classes are focused on the poor state of the schools and the NHS. By focusing on Europe, and taxation, the Conservatives are failing to address these fears and appear out of touch.

WHEN PUBLIC PRIDE BECOMES A PRIVATE MATTER

N. Timmins

Financial Times, June 4th 2001, p.19.

The British public is innately distrustful of the delivery of public services by for-profit companies. The Labour Party plans greater private sector involvement in the delivery of health and education services, but needs to convince the public that private providers are not just interested in maximising profits.

WHEN PUBLIC SERVICES BECOME PRIVATE CONCERNS

N. Timmins

Financial Times, May 21st 2001, p.19.

Labour's manifesto explores the idea that all public services, including health and education, could be funded out of taxation but contracted out to the private sector. Article warns that private sector involvement is no panacea as some private companies are just as incompetent as the public sector.