The Year 2016

16 December 2016

In the first half of the year, the Cameron Government made brave arguments on public service reform in regard to prisons and social mobility. It remained committed, however, to policies such as the pensions triple lock which would imbalance the public finances in the medium term.

In the Autumn Statement, Theresa May’s Government pledged to review those long term policies, in its best announcement so far. Her push to open new grammar schools, however, stands in direct contrast to the promise of greater social mobility with which she began her premiership.

Speaking for Reform in October, Ben Gummer described Brexit as a “cry about what [voters] felt about the state of government and their relationship with it.” He concluded: “In too many of their interactions with the state, the public is made to feel as though they are the servants of the government, rather than the other way around.”

This week, Simon Stevens argued that some spending on benefits for elderly people should be redirected into social care. The balance of spending on the elderly in a good subject for debate but the future of social care depends on radical reform of care and NHS provision rather than extra resources alone. Simon Stevens needs to deliver that radical reform, via his “sustainability and transformation plans”, in the New Year.

The Reform team sends its deep thanks for your interest in our work and its best wishes for 2017.

Andrew Haldenby, Director

Reformers of the year

David Cameron, Theresa May, Meg Hillier, Michael Gove, Liz Truss and Philip Hammond all advanced arguments on public service reform and sustainable public finances this year. Jeremy Corbyn was right to oppose new grammar schools.

Reactionaries of the year

The British Medical Association’s longstanding opposition to NHS reform boiled over into militancy, losing public support for strike action as a result. Theresa May’s wish to open around a dozen new grammar schools is also a major distraction from the job of improving the other 22,000 schools in England. The evidence supports Jeremy Corbyn on grammar schools but it refutes his blanket opposition to any variations in public services or their funding.

Quotes of the year

“What would Herbert Hoover, the pioneering US president who excelled at engineering and economics, make of today’s digital society? He would surely be impressed by the range of affordable devices we use each day, from smartphones to tablets. But I do not think he would be surprised by the economic forces that brought all this about. Competition is the lifeblood of today’s telecoms market, spurring innovation, better coverage and fair prices. As President Hoover observed: ‘Competition is not only the basis of protection to the consumer, but is the incentive to progress.’”

Sharon White, Chief Executive of Ofcom, writing in the Financial Times in January

“I really think that we need to get away from the idea that we only measure progress in public services by the amount of money that is spent. The whole aim here is to try to do more with less. That is what we have done with so many parts of the public sector.”

David Cameron MP, then Prime Minister, speaking in the Queen’s Speech debate in May

“I can confirm that, despite the fiscal pressures, we will meet our commitments to protect the budgets of key public services and defence; we will keep our promise to the world’s poorest through our overseas aid budget, and we will meet our pledge to our country’s pensioners through the triple lock. But as we look ahead to the next Parliament, we will need to ensure we tackle the challenges of rising longevity and fiscal sustainability. And so the government will review public spending priorities and other commitments for the next Parliament in light of the evolving fiscal position at the next Spending Review.”

Philip Hammond MP, delivering the Autumn Statement in November

Reform quotes of the year

Reform has consistently challenged the government to be more radical and more urgent in its pursuit of accountability, value for money and transparency in public services”

Theresa May MP, May 2016

Reform is a think tank whose time has come. It does great work which any government should value.”

Liz Kendall MP, May 2016

“For over a decade, [Reform has] 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 MP, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, July 2016

“[Reform has] done brilliant work since 2001 talking about how we can’t simply spend more money on public services, we also have to reform the way we operate, look at outcomes. I know you have done particular work on criminal justice. The government has looked very closely at it… I think you will see in the white paper we’ve outlined that we’ve been looking at some of those Reform reports.”

Elizabeth Truss MP, Secretary of State for Justice, November 2016

“It is a pleasure to speak…at Reform’s conference on welfare, especially as Reform has produced so much innovative thinking on welfare over the years.”

Damian Green MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, November 2016

Reform’s last week of the year

Media

On Thursday, Andrew Haldenby appeared on BBC Radio 2‘s “The Jeremy Vine Show” to support Simon Stevens’ call for an open-minded debate on public spending on elderly people.

The Reformer Blog

On Monday, Andrew Haldenby argued that allowing council tax increases to fund social care is not sufficient to reform the system and that more thorough actions such as integration of NHS and social care should be pursued.

On Wednesday, Ben Dobson, Researcher at Reform, wrote the third in a series of blogs on the Gig economy, laying out the potential for using online platforms for temporary staff in a wide range of public services—from social care workers to teaching staff.

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