Headlines: November 25th, 2002

A series of speakers will today examine the idea that plans for the reform of public services may be undermined by Britain’s cultural climate which sees fewer people wanting to become involved in service to others.The event in London has been organized by the Royal Society for Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturing and Commerce, under the title “Reform of Public Services; a cultural problem?”

Speakers will include Pippa Bagnall of the NHS Executive, Professor Ray Tallis of the department of geriatric medicine at Hope Hospital in Salford and Heather Rabbatts, chief executive of iMPOWER plc and former chief executive of Lambeth Council. It will be chaired by David Goodhart the editor of ‘Prospect’ magazine.

The RSA says the event will examine the question of whether the government’s ambitious plans for reform, on which New Labour is staking its political credibility, are fatally flawed and how strong the public service ethos is. Britain, the RSA says, has become the most secular and hedonistic country in Europe with fewer people than ever having a strong sense of service to others. Many people, especially women, who were traditionally an important component of public services and of education and health particularly, are now lured by better pay and conditions in the private sector. “The headmistresses of the past have become today’s top City lawyers and bankers,” it says.