The Week, 8 January 2016

8 January 2016

In his New Year’s Message the Prime Minister committed to ensuring economic stability, protecting national security and increasing social mobility, hailing the 2010s “a turnaround decade”. However, as Reform’s Director, Andrew Haldenby, argued on Monday there are still a number of policies, such as the triple lock on the state pension, which threaten this vision in the long term.

Elizabeth Crowhurst, Researcher

Reformer of the week

Nicola Sturgeon, speaking at the International Congress on School Effectiveness and Improvement, who announced that in Scotland information will now be published on the proportion of children reaching the expected standards in numeracy and literacy. Previous evidence has shown that this kind of data can work to raise standards and help narrow the attainment gap between the least and most deprived children.

Good week for…

Health awareness

On Monday, Public Health England launched a new Sugar Smart app to help parents see how much sugar there is in everyday food and drink. The app aims to encourage healthier choices following revelations that on average children aged 4-10 consume over 5,500 sugar cubes a year.

Digital public services

On Tuesday, it was reported that the Government will launch a text alert service similar to those used by online retailers. The service will include MOT renewal reminders, updates on student finance support and welfare applications and is designed to save almost £600 million by reducing the use of call centres and face-to-face meetings.

Emergency service collaboration

Also on Tuesday, the Prime Minister confirmed that responsibility for fire and rescue services would move to the Home Office. It is hoped that the move will help provide clearer leadership, support greater collaboration and deliver better value for money for taxpayers.

Bad week for…

NHS workforce reform

On Tuesday, it was reported that the junior doctors' strike would go ahead after crisis talks between government officials and the doctors’ union lasted less than an hour.

Government project management

On Wednesday, figures released by the National Audit Office found that a third of major government projects due to be delivered in the next five years are rated as in doubt or unachievable.

Health and social care integration

Also on Wednesday, ex-health secretaries Stephen Dorrell, Alan Milburn and Norman Lamb said Government promises of an additional £8.4 billion to the NHS by 2020 would not be enough to meet demand and called for the launch of a cross-party review of health and social care integration.

Quotes of the week

“Information on the percentage of children achieving curriculum levels in literacy and numeracy at P1, P4, P7 and S3 will, for the first time be collected and published nationally each year – and broken down to local authority and school level – to give us a clear and consistent picture of how children and young people are progressing in their learning. It will also give us a clear picture of the attainment gap and allow us to measure our progress in closing it. In doing this, we are creating a system which strikes the right balance between supporting the development of individual children; and providing information and accountability about national and local performance.”

Nicola Sturgeon, speaking at the International Congress on School Effectiveness and Improvement on Wednesday

“Anyone who thinks it’s mission accomplished with the British economy is making a grave mistake. 2016 is the year we can get down to work and make the lasting changes Britain so badly needs. Or it’ll be the year we look back at as the beginning of the decline. This year, quite simply, the economy is mission critical. We have to finish the job.”

George Osborne, speaking in Cardiff on Thursday

"The failure of the latest talks over the new contract raises the question of what it is the medics are seeking. Would they be willing to accept new contracts with certain limited improvements in the terms? Or is there essentially nothing they will say yes to? And if so, then what? The government has already made important concessions to ensure doctors don’t lose out financially and that there is no threat to patient safety. The offer, at least in my view, is basically a fair one.”

Daniel Finkelstein, writing in The Times on Friday

Reform’s week

On Thursday, Reform took part in the media debate over the possibility of charges for GP appointments.

Andrew Haldenby, Director at Reform, appeared on the Today programme (clip begins 01:20:00) and Sky News to argue that charges should be considered as a way to raise revenue for the NHS.

Leo Ewbank, Researcher at Reform, appeared on BBC Radio London (clip begins 01:22:00) and BBC South Today (clip begins 10:00) arguing that such charges already exist in most other developed countries.

The Reformer Blog

On Monday, Andrew Haldenby wrote a blog proposing New Year’s resolutions for the Prime Minister.

On Wednesday, Ed Holmes, Senior Researcher at Reform, wrote a blog outlining the implications of demographic change for public policy.

On Friday, Amy Finch, Senior Researcher at Reform, wrote a blog welcoming Nicola Sturgeon’s plans to reintroduce school performance tables in Scotland, and setting out lessons from the policy initiative in England.

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