The Week

The Week, 24 February 2017

This week, Reform held a conference exploring the opportunities and challenges Big Data presents to government. In his keynote address, John Manzoni, Chief Executive of the UK Civil Service and Permanent Secretary of the Cabinet Office, stated the Government's commitment to using Big Data to improve efficiency and public satisfaction in public services. The conference found an appetite to improve the use of data across departments, but wide-scale implementation is yet to materialise.

Ben Dobson, Researcher

Reformer of the week

John Manzoni, as above.

Reactionary of the week

Bill Gates, who this week proposed a tax on investment in automation technology. This understates the benefits of expanding automation and risks damaging productivity gains.

Good week for…

Sustainable pensions

On Monday, the Department for Work and Pensions announced a consultation that will consider the sustainability of defined-benefit pension schemes following recent high-profile cases of pension deficits.

Prison accountability

On Thursday, the Ministry of Justice published the Prisons and Courts Bill which gives governors greater control over budgets for education, employment and health and strengthens external scrutiny.

Honest evaluations

Also on Thursday, former Minister of State for Government Policy Oliver Letwin highlighted deficiencies of training and culture across Whitehall in evidence submitted to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

Bad week for…


Outcomes-focused commissioning

On Monday, the Mayor of London announced £27.8 million of extra funding for the Metropolitan Police to keep police numbers “as high as possible”.

The school estate

On Wednesday, the National Audit Office published a report which found that weak local accountability and incentives for schools to maintain buildings present a significant risk to long-term value for money.

The Royal Bank of Scotland

On Friday, the Royal Bank of Scotland, 72 per cent of which is publicly owned, reported an annual loss of £7 billion.

Quotes of the week

”As the geography of disability-related unemployment has changed, so has its demography. There is now a much more democratic spread by age and gender. Older men are no longer hogging the illness and the benefits that go with it. Women have pretty much caught up. The gap between older and younger men has also closed to an astonishing degree. Life on incapacity benefits is increasingly the preserve of the poorly educated, irrespective of age.”

Paul Johnson, writing in The Times on Monday.

”But we do not live in an ideal world. We live in a world where every time the Treasury attempts to change a tax, those with the most lobbying muscle make an almighty fuss. That raises the question: if there is this much palaver over business rates, what if, God forbid, the government ever decided to revalue council tax properties, which it has not done since 1991? What if it attempted to get rid of the myriad exemptions on VAT, or to abolish tax breaks for self-employed workers? What if it tried to bring in road charging across the country, or charged for GP visits? All ideas that would make plenty of economic sense but which are unlikely to happen any time soon.”

Ed Conway, writing in The Times on Friday.

"Private schools, and their students, are massively over-represented in the highest ranks of politics, business, the media and sport. They still secure a dominant share of the places at Russell Group universities, in our leading professions and in our cultural firmament.

Are the children of the rich intrinsically more talented and worthy, more gifted and more deserving of celebration than the rest? Of course not. But our state-subsidised private schools continue to give them every possible advantage.”

Michael Gove, writing in The Times on Friday.

Reform’s Week



On Tuesday, Reform held its Big Data Conference. Speakers included John Manzoni and Dr Nasrin Hafezparast, Co-Founder of Outcomes Based Healthcare. Twitter coverage of the event is available at #reformbigdata.


On Friday, in a report on the possibility of extending NHS charging, the BBC’s Nick Triggle referred to Reform’s 2013 paper, The cost of our health: charging in healthcare.

On Saturday, Andrew Haldenby, Director at Reform, appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Profile to discuss the Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice.

On Monday, Andrew Haldenby appeared on BBC Radio 4’s World at One to argue that reforming the NHS would be more effective than emergency resources, referring to Reform’s recent report Saving STPs: Achieving meaningful health and social care reform.

On Tuesday, Civil Service World and Computer Weekly reported on John Manzoni’s keynote speech at Reform’s Big Data Conference.

The Reformer Blog

This week the Reformer featured a series of articles first published in the Reform Big Data Conference Brochure.

• John Manzoni wrote on the challenges and opportunities to the Government of using large datasets to improve public services.

• Danial Ray, Data Science Director at NHS Digital, wrote on how information gained from large datasets could contribute to a more intelligent health and social care system.

• Hetan Shah, Executive Director of the Royal Statistical Society, wrote on the need to improve public trust by making a clearer case for using Big Data to improve government.

On Monday, Andrew Haldenby argued that increasing efficiency and advances in technology will lessen the effects of austerity on public services, in response to Andrew Rawnsley’s column in Sunday’s Observer.

On Friday, Ruby Holmes, Research Assistant at Reform, argued that more should be done to attract teachers to work in the alternative provision sector.