Headlines: September 15th, 2010

Society has changed radically from the mid 20th century age of William Beverage, but the approach to public services has not kept abreast of the changes. 21st century change is moving rapidly and it is imperative to re-think how public services will be provided to meet future needs. This is the key message from the Commission on 2020 Public Services, an independent charity, which has published a report charting the way forward.

The report argues that the current public services settlement is unsustainable in the face of huge demand and behavioural challenges. This means that thinking has to go beyond narrow arguments about how existing public institutions should be tweaked or reformed and return to first principles. A new deal is needed between citizen, society and the state. This should be based on the principle of social citizenship. Citizens should have a duty to contribute as well as a right to receive support.

The current style of public services is unsustainable in the light of predictions such as the need by 2030 for an additional six per cent of GDP to meet the social costs of ageing. Also an HM Treasury forecasts predicts that this would increase the share of national income spent by government to over 45 per cent by 2020, and nearer 47 or 48 per cent by 2030.

The report sets out a route map for change. It includes a shift in culture so that public services can engage and enrol citizens, families, communities, enterprises and wider society in creating better outcomes as partners. There also needs to be a shift in power so that services start with citizens who should control more of the money spent on services such as long-term care, health and skills. Services must be more open, transparent and understandable to citizens.

From social security to social productivity is available here. http://clients.squareeye.com/uploads/2020/documents/PST_final_rep.pdf