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Reform was founded in 2001 out of a concern that the record public spending increases that followed would not in fact transform public services, or improve economic productivity, in the way that was hoped. This argument was controversial in the years of apparent boom. The financial crisis of 2007-08 however made very clear that the search for value for money in public spending was not an idle or academic question. It is in fact a front rank political issue and will remain so for as long as the public finances remain in a difficult position i.e. for the next two Parliaments at least.
Reform works on all issues that bear on improved public service performance within affordable budgets. Because some public services make use of competition, we are interested in related examples of competition in the economy such as regulated markets. Because public services need good policy, we are interested in a better Civil Service, stronger Parliament and better Ministers. Our current work is building towards the 2015 Spending Review which, done right, could set a course for better public services and sound public finances in the next Parliament.
Reform is politically independent, with an MP of each of the main Parties on our Advisory Board. Some people call us “centre-right” because of our interest in value for money in public spending. The best description is “liberal” with a small l.
We are an educational charity, established as the Reform Research Trust. We are funded by private individuals and by corporate organisations. We have been praised for the transparency of our corporate donations which are listed here. Our support does not influence our research programme, which is fully independent.
Reform began with two people working from home on their own IT, sending out briefings on issues of the day such as the Wanless Report on the future of the NHS. It is now an established organisation of 15 people and a much greater ability to produce research which informs the public and policymakers. I am proud to be the Director of a team which is regularly described as the most professional of similar organisations. We are not perfect but we have a commitment always to improve. In September 2014 the Home Secretary, Rt Hon Theresa May MP, described us as “the country’s leading think tank on public sector reform”. We understand that support for our work entirely depends on the quality of our research and wider effort.
When Reform was launched, all of the major Westminster parties supported much higher spending as the way to improve public services and the economy. None of them now do. There is a better understanding that what matters is the quality and outcomes of public services rather than the size of their budgets and workforce. This is a core part of modern politics and it remains Reform’s focus. Please join our work.