Reform’s Week, 4 December 2015

4 December 2015

This week, whilst Parliament focused on foreign affairs, Michael Gove continued his reforming agenda at the Ministry of Justice by announcing that the judiciary would no longer be forced to impose financial penalties on all offenders. This follows a series of announcements on reforming the prison estate and digitalising the courts system.

Charlotte Pickles, Senior Research Director

Reformer of the week

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Justice, who on Thursday announced that the much criticised mandatory court fees introduced under the Coalition Government would be scrapped.

Good week for…

Pensioner poverty

On Tuesday, the OECD reported that the UK is bearing down on pensioner poverty faster than other rich world countries.

University access

On Thursday, a report by Universities UK showed that between 2005 and 2014 the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds studying full time increased by 42 per cent.

Value for money

On Friday, a new report on cancer drug pricing found that the UK pays less than many high-income European neighbours.

Bad week for…

Digital government

On Tuesday the National Audit Office (NAO) published the results of its Digital Skills Survey 2015, reporting that just 8 per cent of government digital leaders believe the initiatives they have in place will close the skills gap. Pay and the civil service recruitment processes were seen as the biggest barriers to recruitment and retention.

Digital borders

On Thursday, the NAO published a report on the Home Office’s e-borders and successor programmes. The NAO found that the Department had not delivered value for money for the £830 million it spent between 2003 and 2015, and that despite increasing capability processes remain inefficient.

Housing supply

On Thursday, the Office for National Statistics released data on house building over the six months to September. Compared to the same period the previous year, there was an 18 per cent decrease in the number of houses started, a 20 per cent decrease in affordable housing starts and a 61 per cent decrease in social housing starts.

Quotes of the week

“In nearly every area of life, we’ve come to expect that transactions which used to take weeks can be accomplished in seconds. Cheques and paper documents have been replaced by contactless payment cards and smartphone apps. Protracted meetings and endless correspondence have been supplanted by email and sms exchanges.
People, businesses and organisations have transformed the way they work and the expectations people have of public services have also altered. If we’re going to serve the public properly, and maintain the precious advantages our legal traditions give us, then we need to modernise the way our courts work.”

Michael Gove, Justice Secretary, speaking to the Magistrates Association on Thursday

“Steve McGuirk, the city’s former chief fire officer, recognised a decade ago that the demands on his service were changing dramatically…The result? Firefighters no longer cross thresholds simply to douse flames or even advise on how to avoid them. Instead, they undertake crime prevention, adapt homes to ensure the elderly are less likely to fall and attend cardiac arrest calls — easing pressure on the National Health Service. Pilot programmes suggest these multidisciplinary ‘Community Risk Intervention Teams’ are delivering savings worth 10 times the £1m investment. Yet Mr McGuirk worries that there is still no government-driven mission to reshape the state by ending what he sees as an inefficient silo-based approach to public services.”

Sarah Neville, Public Policy Editor, Financial Times, on Friday

Reform‘s week

On Tuesday, wrote an article for Citywire arguing that the ambitious trajectory of the state pension age means reforming the triple lock is crucial.

On Thursday, Leo Ewbank and Alexander Hitchcock, both Researchers at Reform, hosted a policy roundtable on “The future of general practice”.

On Friday, the FT published a full page article on the reform of UK government and public sector. Andrew Haldenby was quoted, saying: “Although the size of the government is being reduced, it is not because of an ideological road map. It’s the force majeure of the money.” The article also quoted Steve McGuirk, former chief fire officer in Greater Manchester and a speaker at Reform’s recent annual conference.

The Reformer blog

On Monday, Andrew Haldenby, Director at Reform, wrote a blog asking why the Government backed off from reform in the Spending Review.

On Tuesday, Thomas Sasse, Research Assistant at Reform, wrote a blog arguing that the NHS must learn from frontline innovators to improve access to general practice.

On Wednesday, William Mosseri-Marlio, Researcher at Reform, wrote a blog outlining the long-term picture for UK pensions, in light of new OECD analysis.



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