The Year: 2015

18 December 2015

In 2015 Theresa May, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove set out genuine reform agendas, aiming to achieve much better outcomes, including value for money, through new forms of delivery. The Shadow Cabinet maintained its support for symbolic reform policies (academy schools and private delivery of NHS care) despite the Opposition’s change of leadership.

These Ministers made their case despite George Osborne’s policies rather than because of them. The Chancellor’s Spending Review returned to Gordon Brown’s argument that extra resources are the way to better results. He sharply increased regulation on the labour market via the National Living Wage and apprenticeship levy. For all his rhetoric on fiscal discipline, he continued to undermine the long term position through his support for high pensions and NHS spending at a time when the population is ageing.

Reform’s initial focus in 2016 will be value for money in public services and a reformed labour market. We look forward to engaging you in our active programme.

Andrew Haldenby


Reformers of the year

Theresa May, Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Gove and the Shadow Cabinet as above. David Cameron made a powerful case for reform in September which was not carried through into the Spending Review.

Reactionary of the year

George Osborne, as above.

Good year for…

Police reform

The Home Office kept up the pressure on police reform throughout the year. Forces such as West Midlands and initiatives such as Police Now are genuinely innovating in their use of their workforce. It remains to be seen if police forces seek to downplay reform now that their budgets have been protected in the Spending Review. The Home Office is clearly keen to ensure that that will not happen.

Prisons reform

Since the Election, Michael Gove has displayed the same reforming energy in justice as he did previously in education.

Welfare reform

Iain Duncan Smith continues to promote a welfare system that returns people to work and reduces the future burden on the taxpayer as a result. He is rightly focusing on the millions of people unable to work due to poor health.

Bad year for…

Housing policy

The Government introduced various subsidies which will increase demand for housing. Policies on social housing have led to less housebuilding in the sector, pushing people into private rented housing and thereby putting further strain on an already unsustainable housing benefit bill.

Labour market regulation

The apprenticeship levy contradicts the Government’s stated wish to deregulate the labour market and the economy more generally. It is being used to meet an arbitrary target that seems unrelated to either business need or labour force demand.

Fiscal discipline

As the Office for Budget Responsibility has shown, current policies on the NHS and pensions will see the national debt return to levels seen after the financial crisis in decades to come.

Quotes of the Year

“I have spoken up until now about the business of reform. I have talked about the services, the budgets and the people of the Home Office, and how they must change to respond to the changing operational and financial reality, and what services might look like as a result. In the run up to a Spending Review, it is right that we focus on these matters …. But in our preoccupation with the business of reform, we must not forget its purpose. Because reform is not the end in itself, but the means to creating a better life and better public services for people up and down the country.”

Rt Hon Theresa May MP, speaking to Reform in November

“Where government does act, we need to ensure that it does so as effectively as possible. And this is where I believe developing a smarter state really holds the key to showing how the necessity of cutting the deficit and the progressive vision of ‘one nation’ can go and in fact, do go, hand-in-hand. If we make the right decisions, then far from getting in the way of our progressive goals, the changes we make can, in some cases, actually improve the services that government delivers—and help people.”

Rt Hon David Cameron MP, speaking in September

“There is one more area which we haven’t focused on enough—how work is also good for your health. Growing evidence over the last decade has shown work can keep people healthy as well as help promote recovery if someone falls ill. By contrast, there is a strong link between those not in work and poor health. So, it is right that we look at how the system supports people who are sick and helps them into work.”

Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP, speaking to Reform in August

“New technologies open up the possibility of domestic alternatives to expensive hospital-based care, and data–mining to winkle out necessary operations. Barriers between social care and hospital services can be broken down. At the least, politicians need to allow space for Mr Stevens’ ideas to work, in particular by shedding their allergic reaction towards more use of the private sector. Yet finding £22 billion of new efficiency savings in just five years remains a highly ambitious aspiration…The remorseless rise in healthcare spending remains the biggest unresolved financial question in British politics.”

Financial Times leader, 9 January 2015

Reform’s Year


Reform produced fourteen research papers in 2015:


· Employment and Support Allowance: the case for change

· Towards a more productive state

· An NHS leadership team for the future, by Na’eem Ahmed, Faheem Ahmed, Hiba Anis, Phoebe Carr, Salman Gauher and Farzana Rahman

· Updating uprating: towards a fairer system

· State of the State 2015-16, by Reform and Deloitte


· Cutting crime: the role of tagging in offender management, by Reform and Gavin Lockhart-Mirams


· How to run a country: The 2015 Spending Review. This major paper included the following chapters:  

· How to run a country: crime and policing

· How to run a country: pensions,

· How to run a country: working age welfare,

· How to run a country: education,

· How to run a country: health and social care


· Education in chains, by Matthew Robb and Anna Grotberg

· Progress on NHS reform

· Letting Go: How English devolution can help solve the NHS care and cash crisis, by Lord Warner and Jack O’Sullivan

· How to run a country. A Parliament of lawmakers, by Reform and Jonathan Goddard

· A framework for fiscal sustainability

· Expert patients

· RetirementSaverService, by Mark Hoban MP


37 Ministers and Shadow Ministers spoke for Reform in 2015 including Rt Hon Theresa May MP,  Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP and Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee.

Jeremy Hunt Home Sec TM 2  Meg HilliersIain Duncan Smith 2






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