Abstracts: May 29th, 2003

By Catherine Needham.Catalyst warns that the government’s consumerist agenda for public services will erode the culture of social citizenship upon which their long-term survival depends. This pamphlet analyses the changing government-citizen relation under New Labour and concludes that across a range of government activities, from communication and consultation to public service delivery, citizenship is being “consumerised” in an intensification of a trend begun under the Conservatives. It argues that government communications are increasingly promotional, as seen in Alastair Campbell’s reforms to the Government Information Service, energies devoted to departmental “branding”, and accumulating controversies over “spin”, distortion and misrepresentation in government-provided information. It describes how government consultations now “mimic commercial market research” in their reliance on “opinion polls, feedback forms and satisfaction surveys”, and “ask respondents to report their experiences as service users” and not to consider wider community, policy or budgetary implications.

Published by Catalyst (Working Paper) ISBN 1 904508 05 7. Price 5 pounds.