The Week, 16 March 2018

16 March 2018

The Chancellor said this week that public services, in particular the NHS, could receive a significant increase in funding if the public finances continue to improve. A recent Reform poll revealed that voters were supportive of a measured increase of the NHS budget alongside an acceleration in reform. Any future increase in health spending should be combined with major reform efforts.

Maisie Borrows, Researcher, Reform.

Reformer of the week

Sadiq Khan, for arguing that cities, such as London, must do more to harness the power of technology to provide tailored public services to citizens.

Reactionary of the week

Damian Hinds MP, Secretary of State for Education, for pledging not to enact any major reforms to the school system in his first major speech as Education Secretary. Given the very uneven performance of English schools, this is the wrong way to begin his tenure.

Good week for…

Fiscal restraint

On Tuesday, the Chancellor resisted calls to spend a £4.7 billion windfall from improved tax receipts on public services. He instead opted to deliver a “balanced approach” to spending to “drive value for money to ensure that not a single penny of precious taxpayers’ money is wasted.”

Building houses and devolution

On Tuesday, the Chancellor announced a deal with the West Midlands Combined Authority to deliver an extra 215,000 houses over 12 years, which would more than double the region’s current output of 12,000 houses a year.

Bad week for…

Bringing down the debt

On Tuesday, the Chancellor revealed debt as a percentage of GDP is expected to rise by 86.5 per cent in 2018-19, before beginning to fall in 2019.

Meeting fiscal objectives

On Tuesday, the OBR predicted that the Government won’t achieve a “balanced budget” by the middle of the next decade, with an ageing population continuing to exert upward pressure on spending.

Quotes

“Of course, Britain’s level’s of public spending cannot entirely be divorced from economic performance, but we have never before explicitly linked spending decisions to highly uncertain forecasts in the way Mr Hammond choose this week in this Spring Statement. At a time when economic experts’ views are under fire, the chancellor has unwisely politicised the OBR’s already difficult judgments”.

Chis Giles, economics editor for the Financial Times, writing in the Financial Times on Thursday.

“In other words, being a services economy meant Britain suffered more than most during the downturn; by the same token it may also make for an even faster recovery. And that’s before you consider the implications of automation. While the first era of automation was massively productivity-enhancing for manufacturers (think robots in car factories) the next generation should provide a similar boost for the services sector (think robot waiters, lawyers, columnists). There are plenty of risks out there. The retail sector is struggling and more big names may face collapse in the coming months. This country has plenty of other productivity problems: creaky national infrastructure, a sub-par education system, to take just two. But even so, even amid the gloom of this week’s forecasts, there is still the faint, distant glimmer of hope”.

Ed Conway, economics editor of Sky News, writing in The Times on Friday.

“In London, we’re harnessing the power of new technology to transform lives. We’re aiming to make London a global byword for smart cities – with data, connectivity and innovation supporting our infrastructure and services. We’re getting much more involved in using tech to provide public services to the citizens we represent. We’re utilising data to transform the way public services are delivered, making them more accessible, efficient and responsive. We’re looking at London’s strengths in AI and automation, finding the best ways to take advantage of the opportunities it could bring whilst also investing in education to ensure Londoners have the digital skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow”.

Sadiq Khan, in a speech at the South by Southwest Interactive Conference on Monday.

Reform’s Week

Publications

On Tuesday, Reform published a new report Frontline online. Smarter blue light services that looks at the opportunities technology offers to transform emergency service delivery. The report was produced in partnership with Motorola Solutions.

Reformer Blog

On Tuesday, Sarah Timmis, Researcher at Reform argued that smart technology has the potential to transform frontline emergency services.

Also on Tuesday, Fergus Mayne, Head of Sales and Service for UK & Ireland, Motorola Solutions, wrote that police forces should take the opportunity to transform approaches to fighting crime by using technology.

On Thursday, Alexander Hitchcock, Research Manager at Reform, argued that more liberal market conditions could fix our broken housing market.

Media

On Tuesday, Sarah Timmis, Researcher at Reform, wrote an article in Public Technology on why technology must be embedded into frontline policing.

On Wednesday, Alexander Hitchcock, Research Manager at Reform wrote an article in Public Finance in reaction to the Spring Statement, arguing that the Chancellor is right not to spend any tax dividends and should look to spending taxpayer money more strategically in the Budget to meet big challenges such as an ageing population.

Events

On Tuesday , Reform hosted a roundtable, led by Ben Wallace MP, Minister of State for Security and Economic Crime, which discussed how government and law-enforcement agencies can help prevent fraud to protect businesses, the public sector and individuals. The event was held in partnership with Cifas.

On Thursday, Reform hosted a workshop to discuss the views of two business sectors, financial and professional services and food and agriculture, on Brexit. The event was held in partnership with the City of London, National Farmers Union and Weber Shandwick.

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