Thursday, 16 June 2011

Public sector reform - the next u-turn?

The Open Public Services White Paper, which was to open up break up "state monopolies" and allow communities, charities and companies to take over the running of public services has been delayed again.

The document has been subject to repeated delays and, instead of appearing in March, is likely to come out in July or even September, and the Prime Minister's plans could be diluted or even put on ice.

One minister told the Telegraph "It hardly makes sense for us to rewrite our health reforms to limit competition and the private sector role, then push ahead with the same things everywhere else."

Another "conservative source" told the newspaper that the document might be a consultative Green Paper rather than a White Paper setting out firm government policy.

Commentators suggest that there has been a big row behind the scenes, with conservatives fingering the Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander but Chancellor George Osborne also said to have doubts over the financial and political cost.

Colin Talbot, writing in Public Finance, points out the similarities to the delays to Labour's "Modernising Government" white paper in 1997-99 and observes that few governments across the world ever manage to produce ever come up with coherent reform strategies for their public services.


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