The Week, 11 March 2016

11 March 2016

This week the National Audit Office released a report on government procurement which argued that departments should move away from simply lifting barriers to SME participation and instead should focus on identifying areas where different types of organisations can bring the most benefit. A number of their recommendations – including the creation of an integrated digital purchasing platform – were echoed in a report published by Reform on Monday.

Elizabeth Crowhurst, Researcher

Reformer of the week

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan who on Monday outlined reforms to the school national funding formula and criticised the current system where “a school in one part of the country could receive over 50% more than an identical school with exactly the same children, simply because of an accident of history.”

Reactionary of the week

The Public Accounts Committee, which this week released a report suggesting that the main way to improve access to GPs is to increase their number.

Good week for…

Police oversight

On Monday the Home Secretary announced that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) would be reformed and renamed the Office for Police Conduct. The move followed criticisms that the IPCC’s existing governance model was no longer fit for the challenges and scope of modern policing.

Competition in higher education

On Thursday it was reported that new legislation will be laid out in the Queen’s Speech which will make it quicker and easier for HE providers to become universities. It is hoped these changes will provoke higher levels of competition.

Welfare reform

On Friday the Department for Work and Pensions announced that they are reforming the assessment criteria for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). This follows an independent review which found that a significant number of people are likely to be getting the benefit despite having minimal to no extra daily living costs. PIP and its predecessor Disability Living Allowance currently cost the Government around £15.6 billion a year.

Bad week for…

Smoke free prisons

On Tuesday a compulsory and immediate ban on smoking in prisons was overturned by the Court of Appeal meaning the Ministry of Justice will now be able to introduce its own voluntary smoking ban over a much longer time period.

Risky pensions

On Wednesday Pensions Minister Baroness Altmann told MPs that a new law is needed to help protect workers’ savings. This came amid fears that a number of new companies providing pensions are too small to survive in the long-term, putting people’s pension pots at risk.

Transparent spending

Also on Wednesday the National Audit Office released a report arguing that it is uncertain whether Government spending with SMEs increased over the last Parliament due to a lack of quality data.

Quotes of the week

“I don’t need to tell you that too many of those struggling schools are concentrated in certain parts of the country – many in our coastal towns and rural areas. Simply hoping for improvement isn’t enough, because these areas are not only underperforming, but they also lack the capacity and support that they need to improve. Quite simply that means that just by virtue of being born in one part of the country, a child is destined to receive a worse start in life. Delivering educational excellence everywhere means ending the scandalous demography of destiny which has no place in 21st century Britain.”

Nicky Morgan, speaking at the Association of School and College Leaders Conference on Saturday

“Constant, wireless-linked monitoring may spare patients much suffering, by spotting incipient signs of their condition deteriorating. It may also spare health providers and insurers many expensive hospital admissions. When Britain’s National Health Service tested the cost-effectiveness of remote support for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, it found that an electronic tablet paired with sensors measuring vital signs could result in better care and enormous savings, by enabling early intervention.”

The Economist on Friday

Reform’s week

Publications

On Monday, Reform published its latest research report, Cloud 9: the future of public procurement. The report, authored by Researchers William Mosseri-Marlio and Alexander Hitchcock, explores current government procurement practices and argues that expansion of digital procurement portals in conjunction with technical upskilling of procurement staff could save billions of pounds annually.

Media coverage

Cloud 9 received wide media coverage.

It was reported in the Financial Times, the Daily Mail, Public Sector Executive, Civil Service World and The Times.

William Mosseri-Marlio wrote a blog in Public Finance and an article in The Guardian Public Leaders Network outlining some of the report’s key arguments.

Alexander Hitchcock wrote an article in Prospect arguing that greater use of digital procurement portals could save £10 billion in annual public procurement spending.
Events

On Monday, Reform held a policy dinner on ‘DEFRA’s contribution to the productivity revolution’. The event explored the role of rural economy in improving productivity and the Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, gave the opening remarks. It was kindly supported by the ABI.

The Reformer Blog

On Monday, William Mosseri-Marlio wrote a blog following the launch of Cloud 9 highlighting the potential savings government could make with increased use of digital procurement portals.

Also on Monday, Stephen Allott, Chairman of Pebble {Code}, wrote a blog for the Reformer detailing the key merits of the G-Cloud portal and highlighting important considerations for its future development.

On Friday, Eleonora Harwich, Researcher at Reform, wrote a blog underlining the challenges of staff morale and wellbeing within prisons.

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