Public Services: A New Reform Agenda, a collection edited by Henry Kippin, Simon Griffiths and Gerry Stoker, brings together some of the UK’s leading public policy experts to explore the long-term challenges facing public services. Janet Newman welcomes the book’s focus on the need for a new public services settlement and detailed empirical evidence on the benefits of reform, but argues that a more rounded conception of the social than is offered by the authors must underpin the reform agenda.
This post originally appeared on LSE Review of Books.
Public Services: A New Reform Agenda. Henry Kippin, Simon Griffiths and Gerry Stoker (eds.). Bloomsbury. July 2013.
This is undoubtedly a crucial time to be thinking about the future of public services. The current regime of cuts, austerity and the political drive to downsize the state have challenged he most basic assumptions of what public services are for, as well as how they should be delivered. This volume offers a series of contributions on how the future might be envisaged. It originated in the Commission on 2020 Public Services and proposes a new social contract between state and citizen that might displace the Beveridge settlement and thus offer a sustainable future for public services.
This is an ambitious project, and has contributions from many of the leading figures in the field. But the book has been long in the making (the Commission was held in 2009). It traces the contours of what has since become an accepted repertoire of behaviour change strategies, the shift of responsibility to citizens, and the move to a more plural marketplace for public service delivery. In some places the rather long genesis shows (some of the chapters do go over rather old ground). However both the editors’ introduction and the ‘afterword’ by Ben Lucas, Gerry Stoker and Matthew Taylor, together with some of the chapters (for example Christopher Hood on future finance options), firmly position the volume in the current era of austerity and the policies of the Coalition government. This means that while the book offers a welcome antidote to narratives of loss, failure and a politics of decline, it also makes for a rather chilling read in places.