The Week

The Week 5 July 2024

Joe Hill
Policy Director

It’s a new day in Westminster, and the first day of a Labour government in fourteen years. After weeks of speculation about what would happen in the election, attention is quickly turning to what will happen in government. We’ve already seen plenty of commentary about Labour’s plan for the first 100 days, and now the clock is ticking.

Behind the scenes, the business of government has already begun. I spoke to the Financial Times for an article yesterday on how the civil service will have prepared for new Ministers, who are awaited by their ‘first day briefing’ folders as they are appointed over the coming days. Many new Ministers will find urgent decisions waiting in their inboxes, held over by the civil service during the election.

New Ministerial appointments won’t be the only important ones to watch over the coming days. GB News’ Christopher Hope reports that Labour advisers are already in Downing Street beginning their work, with more likely to follow as Ministers are announced.

Keir Starmer said outside Downing Street that his would be a government “unburdened by doctrine”, which can be music to the ears of reform-minded researchers like us who aim to follow the evidence. But at the same time, is it possible to govern without an ideological frame at all? We will soon see, in some of the big set piece events of the next few months. The first King’s Speech of a new Parliament, setting out the government’s legislative priorities, and a Spending Review and Autumn Statement setting out their plans for public finances, will establish the Government’s actual policies very quickly. The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee will have two more opportunities to decide whether to adjust interest rates before the Autumn Statement, providing an opportunity for some good economic news and much-needed headroom for the new Chancellor.

The business of government, particularly a new government, is chaotic. We published our Manifesto for Delivery two weeks ago, to advocate for government which is better at systematically delivering on its objectives, and avoids simply bouncing from one crisis from another. New Ministers would do well to consider it.

Read of the week...

We at Reform are always on the hunt for reasons to be hopeful about the scope for public service reform. Sarah Peña from Swindon Borough Council has written up an excellent case study of their use of Generative AI models to improve the accessibility of local government services, by automating the generation of ‘Easy read’ documentation for their digital services.

Public services need to be more accessible, and cheaper, and AI promises that opportunity for the next government. But we are seeing changing patterns in how AI may be used in the public sector - more experimentation with off-the-shelf tools accessed through the cloud, and less reliance on procuring end-to-end solutions exclusively from the private sector.

A cash-strapped Government will be on the hunt for ways to improve public services without spending much money. But with AI, there is plenty of low-hanging fruit to seize if they have the will to do it. The most important question is - can they scale AI up from small pilots to full-scale enterprise software?