A great weekend for reform?

11 May 2015

Ivan Lewis this morning joined the stream of politicians making pro-reform statements after the Election. Ivan Lewis argued that, “Public services like the NHS and schools need investment and valued staff but also a louder voice and greater control for patients and parents.” Owen Paterson said much the same in the Sunday Times (“make schools and hospitals more responsive to consumer demand”) (£). Liz Kendall (£) rightly pointed out that many people providing public services work for private companies, including care workers.

The greatest detail came from Chuka Umunna and Tony Blair. Chuka Umunna spoke of a “smart, efficient public sector”. He pointed to the success of Transport of London in providing travel data to software developers. Passengers receive that information and use the London travel system more intelligently. Tony Blair also emphasised technology, and argued that health and education systems would not now be designed in their current form because technology “offers so many ways of doing things differently”. He spoke of the great range of ideas being pioneered in local government, including social impact investment.

A number of Labour Party voices also urged the Party to state clearly that its last Government did not spend every pound wisely ahead of the financial crisis. To be fair, the Conservative Party supported that Government’s spending plans for several years in the run to the crisis. We are still talking about the high spending policy of the pre-crisis years because we still need politicians to focus on value for money, and to seek other ideas rather than simply higher spending. That is one reason why the comments over the weekend were so refreshing.

Andrew Haldenby, Director, Reforn

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