The Week

The Year, 2017

The 2017 General Election was supposed to be about Brexit, however it reminded us how important public service reform is to the electorate with NHS funding, social care, school budgets and the police among major concerns.

As the year progressed examples of real innovation and exciting technological development stood out across all public services, such as the recently announced NHS partnership with a private AI-based health company, to allow better access to GPs.

The Reform team sends its deep thanks for your interest in our work and its best wishes for 2018.

Jim Boyd, Deputy Director and Head of Research

Reformers of the Year

This year Alan Milburn and Tim Briggs advanced arguments on NHS reform. At the end of the year Liz Truss and Michael Barber proposed improving value in public spending and public services by rewarding outcomes rather than inputs.

Reactionaries of the Year

RMT’s strike action on Southern railways over the role of driver-only operated trains has brought misery to passengers, employers and impacted negatively the capital and region’s economy.

Department of Health for delaying publication of a social care green paper, despite this being arguably the most pressing domestic public policy issue facing the UK.

Quotes of the Year

“I do not think at the moment we deserve more money until we put our house in order and we actually make the changes that will improve the quality of care.”

Professor Tim Briggs, National Director of Clinical Quality and Efficiency, August 2017.

“Throwing money at healthcare is not enough- we need to take advantage of advances in knowledge to better target care”.

Alan Milburn, former Labour Health Secretary and Social Mobility Commissioner, October 2017.

“Incentives in the public sector have traditionally been, to put it mildly, ambiguous. Ministers’ performance tends to be judged on the size of the budget they negotiate with the Treasury, rather than how much they deliver or innovate. Civil servants tend to get bigger rewards and more status for managing more people or bigger budgets. Departments don’t call time on budgets that aren’t delivering. They rarely, if ever, go to the Treasury with ideas for spending less, even if, through innovation, doing so could improve outcomes. Some years ago, when I volunteered to return, in mid-year, part of a budget I had realised I wouldn’t need, the relevant Treasury officials almost fell off their chairs in surprise- no-one ever did that, they commented.”

Sir Michael Barber, in Delivering better outcomes for citizens: practical steps for unlocking public value, November 2017.

“…we must not lose sight of the unchanging economic facts of life. Funding for public services can only be delivered in one of three ways: higher taxes; higher borrowing; or stronger economic growth. And only one of those three choices is a long-term sustainable solution for this country in the face of the inexorable pressure of an ageing population.”

Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his Mansion House speech, June 2017.

Reform Quotes of the Year

“Let me start by thanking you. Reform is I think one of the most thoughtful and important think tanks, because it starts from a very sensible standpoint, which is that in a modern, successful, prosperous society we don’t want the state to do everything. But the things that the state does do, we want to do well. That means thinking about all public services in a different way and in particular, trying to cross-fertilise and learn from the lessons in reforming some public services and how they can be applied to others. You have been a real champion of that, and I think Reform has made some very, very important arguments, which have really helped us as Ministers who are trying to enact those very reforms.”

Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Health, March 2017.

“I have followed Reform since its beginnings… I have always rated your work as amongst the best of the London think tanks. You have done more than any other to improve the machinery of government and to move Britain in a more entrepreneurial direction.”

Martin Ivens, Editor, Sunday Times, September 2017.

Reform’s Week


On ThursdayReform held its inaugural social mobility conference- Unlocking the UK’s potential: making social mobility work for all. Rt Hon Justine Greening MP, Secretary of State for Education, delivered the keynote speech, where she announced her social mobility action plan. It was followed by three panels focusing on each phase of citizens’ lives.

A brochure for the conference can be downloaded here, including blogs from:

• Lucy Powell MP, Member, Education Select Committee and Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Families in the Early Years;

• Sir Kevan Collins, Chief Executive, Education Endowment Foundation;

• Claire Warnes, Head of Education, Skills and Productivity, KPMG;

• Helen Milner OBE, Chief Executive, Good Things Foundation;

• Helen Barnard, Head of Analysis, Joseph Rowntree Foundation; and

• Emilie Sundorph, Researcher, Reform.


The social mobility conference was covered by a number of media outlets, including BBC NewsThe Telegraph, and The Guardian. A full list of our media coverage for the event can be viewed here.

Reformer Blog

On Tuesday, Jim Boyd, Deputy Director at Reform, argued that Government needs to make “tough decisions” to ensure fair policy across all generations.

Upcoming events

On Monday, Reform is delighted to welcome Rt Hon David Lidington MP, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, who will be speaking on ‘Prison policy: delivery and reform’.