Reform Journal 2012

Reform‘s 2012 Journal marks the midpoint of this Parliament. It provides answers to the basic questions facing policy makers i.e. the recovery of growth, the achievement of public service reform and the effective provision of welfare given the pressure on public budgets.

Growth will dominate the Party conference season while the country remains in recession. Chris Leslie calls the recession “unforgivable” (p.18). George Freeman and Chi Onwurah provide different definitions of an active business strategy (p.13). Matthew Hancock calls on the right of politics to lead a reform of capitalism (p.28). Vince Cable and Richard Threlfall note that the private sector will deliver the bulk of the country’s infrastructure going forward (p.44).

Public service reform needs excellent policy and practical leadership. Andrew Lansley restates his commitment to competition in the NHS, which has been so controversial in this Parliament (p.6). David Willetts explains that he is opening the market in higher education (p.47). Tim Kelsey argues that open data will be “the most important public policy innovation of our time” (p.10). David Dalton, the Chief Executive of the Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, calls on the boards of NHS organisations to take responsibility and be “unrelenting in their commitment to improvement” (p.9) whilst Mark Dawe calls for stronger mathematics education in schools and universities (p.50).

The welfare state has to support families in the short term and become affordable in the long term. Priti Patel demands tax reductions to help hard-pressed families (p.18). Steve Webb wants people to save more for retirement (p.24). Heather Wheeler puts forward equity release as a solution for some families (p.25).

Simon Walker captures the mood (p.37). He wants “giant leaps”, “big ideas”, “large ambitions” and “radical measures” in order to set an unequivocal policy direction. One of Reform’s core arguments is that consistency between policies makes change possible while inconsistency has the opposite effect. Slow economic growth makes excellent policy and reformed government even more important.

Some may have thought that the problems of low productivity, in both public and private sectors, were temporary and would be behind us by now. In reality the problems are deep-rooted and postponing action will only make them worse. There is still time to make tough decisions which bring real benefits before the next General Election.