The Week, 29 April 2016

29 April 2016

Survey data published this week suggests the public sector owns more land than previously thought. If the findings are true, the Government could lift its ambition beyond the current commitment to release £5 billion worth of land and property assets by 2020. As the Spending Review recognised, a smaller and more efficient estate would drive economic growth and ease supply constraints on the housing market.

William Mosseri-Marlio, Researcher

Reformer of the week

Minister for the Cabinet Office Matt Hancock, who announced the Government will be exploring public policy applications of blockchain, the database technique used by crypto-currencies like bitcoin. Secure, transparent and efficient, blockchain could be used to manage the distribution of grants or monitor student loans.

Good week for…

E-Democracy

On Tuesday, the Government announced amendments to the trade union bill that would allow a trial of e-voting for strike ballots.

New models of local government

On Tuesday, the House of Commons Library published a briefing note celebrating local government innovation since the 2011 Open Public Services White Paper.

Public sector land

On Thursday, the estate agent Savills published a survey suggesting the public sector owns three times as much land in England and Wales as previously thought.

Bad week for…

A broad tax base

On Tuesday, the Institute for Fiscal Studies revealed that nearly half the adult population does not pay income tax.

Industrial relations

On Tuesday, junior doctors withdrew cover from NHS emergency care for the first time ever.

Rebalancing the economy

On Wednesday, the Office for National Statistics reported the UK economy grew by just 0.4 per cent in the first quarter of 2016. The disappointing figures were led by a 0.9 per cent contraction in construction output.

Quotes of the week

“Builders have been given generous carrots to crank up construction and could do with a bit of stick. Under help to buy, launched in April 2013, the government pays developers up to a fifth of the value of a home to help first-time buyers. It has been used on 60,000 new builds. This year’s starter home initiative excuses developers from planning levies if properties are sold at a 20 per cent discount.

Builders are doing very nicely from all this taxpayer-funded largesse. Profit margins were near a record high at 17.6 per cent last year and are forecast to top 2004’s peak of 18 per cent both this year and next. They are raking it in from rising house prices, and that’s the problem.”

Philip Aldrick, writing for The Times on Saturday

“The point about academies and academisation is that they are the vehicle for schools to innovate, make best use of the freedom to drive up standards and do the right thing for their children, which often does not happen under local authority control. That is what we want to see, and that is why we want schools to become academies.”

Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan, speaking in the House of Commons on Monday

“We should not lose sight of the underlying reason for this dispute, namely this Government’s determination to be the first country in the world to offer a proper patient-focused seven-day health service. To help deliver this, the NHS will this year receive the sixth biggest funding increase in its history. But it is not just about money, as we know from the mistakes of previous Governments. It is also about taking the tough and difficult decisions necessary to make sure that we really do turn our NHS into the safest, highest-quality healthcare system in the world. This Government will not duck that challenge.”

Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt, speaking in the House of Commons on Monday

Reform’s week

Publications

On Thursday Reform published Unlocking prison performance. The report argues that a new performance measurement framework is needed for prisons: one which captures both how prisons spend their money to provide a safe environment, and whether they improve the life-chances of offenders released from their care.

On Thursday Charlotte Pickles, Deputy Director and Head of Research at Reform, wrote an article for The Times in which she argued that incentivising prisons to provide a second chance for offenders is a moral and financial imperative. Also on Thursday, Reform Researcher Eleonora Harwich wrote an article in Civil Service World, in which she argued that the current inadequacy of prison data is hindering analysis of prison performance. On Friday, Eleonora wrote a further article for The Guardian’s Public Leaders Network, in which she argued that current prison performance measures fail to take into account long-term outcomes for prisoners, such as reoffending or sustained employment.

Media

On Monday Alexander Hitchcock, Researcher at Reform, wrote an article for the Huffington Post in response to the release of NHS England’s General Practice Forward View. He argued that NHS England identified the need for greater scale and more technology in GP practices, but failed to outline policies capable of achieving either.

Events

On Tuesday Reform held a private policy roundtable in partnership with Age UK, led by the Minister of State for Pensions Baroness Altmann, to explore how the Government should take forward the private pension reform agenda.

On Thursday Reform convened a roundtable with Danny Mortimer, Chief Executive of NHS Employers, to discuss the future of NHS workforce reform.

The Reformer Blog

On Monday Andrew Haldenby, Director at Reform, wrote a blog asking whether the fire service is the best example of public service reform.

On Wednesday Amy Finch, Research Manager and Head of Education at Reform, wrote a blog arguing that it would be contradictory for the Government to pursue full academisation of schools while also allowing local authorities to run academy chains.

On Thursday Eleonora Harwich, Research at Reform, wrote a blog on measuring performance in the prison system.

Also on Thursday Kevin Lockyer, Partner at Adaptus Consulting, wrote a blog on delivering value for money in prisons.

On Friday Emilie Sundorph, Research Assistant at Reform, wrote a blog outlining the significance of changes to school funding that will be implemented over this Parliament.

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