Comment Blog 8 November, 2021

Reform 2.0: Our strategic priorities

Covid, for many people and organisations, has been traumatic, but as with any crisis, it also prompts reflection. At Reform, we have taken the opportunity to pause and take stock, to examine our strategic purpose to ensure we really are focusing on the big challenges facing the country.

For the past two decades, Reform has been leading the fight for public service reform. We’ve always been clear that public services are central to securing the health and wealth of the nation – that’s why we spend every day thinking about how we can improve them – but we’ve consistently challenged the assumption that more money, or more activity, equals better services. Increasing inputs is not the same as improving outcomes. Over the years we’ve identified numerous ways in which taxpayers’ money can be made to go further; ways in which government can transform services to make them more efficient and more effective while also maintaining sound public finances.

We remain committed to that core vision of outcomes-driven, value for money public services. But we have also reached the conclusion that improving the current model of service delivery, as valuable as that may be, is not enough. Papering over a crack brings temporary respite, but it doesn’t fix the foundations. That’s why despite genuine attempts by successive governments to improve public services, and, particularly in certain areas, considerable additional spending, on too many key indicators Britain is underperforming.

As we reflected on where we are as a nation, and the challenges and opportunities facing us – brought about by profound global, demographic and technological changes – we realised that a more fundamental rethink was needed. Continuing to tweak a broken system, hoping for radically different outcomes, hasn’t worked – if it had, inequalities would be decreasing, productivity rising, and Britain’s future prosperity would be secured.

The public service institutions and approaches we rely on today are modified versions of those built as part of the post-war settlement. The aims and ambitions of those who designed them were inspiring, and millions have relied on these core services. But the challenges that faced 1940s Britain are not those facing 21st Britain.

We think it’s time we reimagined how the State operates; that we shape a new social settlement fit for today and the coming decades.

We want to see a public service model that reduces demand rather than simply manages it. We want to see a settlement that recognises that the welfare of the nation cannot – and should not – be delivered by the State alone. And we want to see a State that acts in the long-term interests of the nation, that devolves rather than hoards power, and that is agile and affordable.

Reform has a long history of robust and innovative thinking – thinking that is unencumbered by either political affiliation or vested interests. We also understand that big ideas have to be implementable. As we reshape our strategic purpose, these will remain core values.

If you share our view that more fundamental reform is needed, and would like to support us in shaping the agenda, please get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.