The Week, 22 July 2016

22 July 2016

The new Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Rt Hon David Gauke MP, expressed the goal of public service reform very well in his Reform speech yesterday. He explained that the goal is to achieve “world-class public services” and “protect the interests of taxpayers” at the same time.

For that reason, he may be concerned by NHS announcements this week. On Thursday, NHS authorities announced that the hospital trusts in greatest financial deficit would no longer need to meet waiting time targets. Earlier in the week, the head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, floated the ideas of big extra borrowing to fund extra NHS buildings and a new tax to pay for social care. These statements send a signal to the NHS that it can respond to financial difficulty by a) allowing quality of care to deteriorate and b) asking for more money. Simon Steven’s real problem is that the NHS is not delivering against its reform plan (the ‘Five Year Forward View’), with its ambitions of shifting care of hospitals, treating illness much more quickly and preventing ill health in the first place.

Andrew Haldenby, Director, Reform

Reformers of the week

David Gauke, as above.

Rt Hon Liz Truss MP, Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, for renewing the Government’s commitment to “radical” prison reform on Tuesday.

Reactionary of the week

Simon Stevens, as above.

Good week for…

NHS spending commitments

On Monday, Simon Stevens also called for extra efforts to reduce inefficiency and improve prevention.

Digital public services

On Thursday, a survey found that councils expect to deliver more than two thirds of services online by 2019.

Critics of industrial strategies

Both the economic historian Geoffrey Woods (£) and The Economist warned this week that industrial strategies have had little previous success in the UK.

Bad week for…

Government oversight of public spending and public services I

On Thursday, the National Audit Office issued two reports showing that last year’s Spending Review did not look at how Government departments can work together to improve public services…

Government oversight of public spending and public services II

…and this year’s Single Department Plans did not adequately set out central government departments’ objectives and performance.

NHS finances

Also on Thursday, the NAO warned that the NHS does not a plan to solve its financial problems.


“I want to see radical reform and I am under no illusions about the scale of the challenge we face or how long reform takes … I will set out the next steps for this agenda in coming weeks, but I am clear that the vital work of prison reform will continue at pace.”

Liz Truss, speaking on Tuesday

“We have not abandoned the intention to move to a surplus. What I have said is that we will not target that at the end of this Parliament. He uses the language of austerity; I call it living within our means. He talks about austerity, but actually it is about not saddling our children and grandchildren with significant debts in the years to come. It is not about austerity; it is about ensuring that we have an economy that works for everyone.”

Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Prime Minister, speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday

“The NHS in England remains under significant financial pressure which is demonstrated in its accounts. It has again used a range of short term measures to manage its budgetary position but this is not a sustainable answer to the financial problems which it faces. The Department and its partners need to create and implement a robust, credible and comprehensive plan to move the NHS to a more sustainable financial footing.”

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, speaking on Thursday

“HM Treasury’s approach to the Spending Review remains rooted in bilateral negotiation and does not sufficiently incentivise collaboration across departments. This means it functions well as a control on departments’ spending, but cannot maximise the value for money of that spending, by tackling difficult and entrenched issues.”

NAO, reporting on Thursday

“It’s great to see so many of you here today and I think that’s a reflection of the huge value we all see in the work Reform does. For over a decade, it’s been front and centre in thinking about how we deliver more for less, how we deliver quality in our public services, and how we deliver genuine value for money.”

David Gauke, speaking for Reform on Thursday

Reform’s week


On Thursday, Reform published Delivering the 2015 Spending Review objective of successful NHS partnerships with the private sector, authored by Director Andrew Haldenby. The report argues that private-sector companies already play a far greater role in the NHS than is often realised, and that partnerships are most successful when responding to local needs rather than direction from the centre. Andrew also wrote a blog to mark publication of the report, which can be found here.


On Thursday, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury David Gauke gave a speech for Reform, in partnership with Deloitte, on improving efficiency in public services. The Minister underlined the successes of previous reforms, which sought to promote the digitisation of government, and highlighted the importance of keeping a “spirit of constant innovation” at all levels of government. A transcript can be found here.


On Thursday and Friday, the Reform research team produced three short films on public service priorities for the Government’s crucial first 100 days. The first looked at ways of driving productivity, the second how to approach the challenge of an ageing population and the third opportunities to deliver improved life chances.



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