The Ashes, Tour de France and public service reform

20 Jul 2009 by Karl Hallam

If England (and Wales) win the Ashes and Bradley Wiggins the Tour de France what will it mean for the public services? That's the sort of mixed up question that can arise during the holiday period when policy people are trying to tune out of their work (coffee and deadlines) brains and into their vacation (ice cream and family tensions) brains.

The psychological impacts of the constant talk of recession and impending public expenditure cuts can be quite severe and many in the public sector will be ready for a break. This kind of comment normally induces an immediate private sector response along the lines of at least you've got a job, but job security in the public sector will be far from guaranteed in the next few years. Universities are already making big cuts in staff and cuts to local government will lead to pressure to reduce council payrolls. It will also have the knock on effect of squeezing the myriad of suppliers to councils. While reform in the 80s and 90s was largely about contracting out to private businesses, increasingly the public sector has been looking to the voluntary sector in recent years.

Why? It's a good question and not one you will always get a good answer to. Can they offer cheaper, higher quality services? which will always be attractive. Do they offer 'added value' because they are rooted in communities and in touch with user needs? The answer is probably quite complicated and something we will return to ... hopefully after Sir Freddie and Sir Bradley have had their well deserved breaks too.

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