Freedom for Public Services by William Mason and Jonathan McMahon is published by the Centre for Policy Studies. The full report can be downloaded here.
I worked for Sir David Arculus when he chaired the Better Regulation Task Force, which in 2003 published Regulation – Less is More. This was adopted by Tony Blair, as the radical proposals we offered for cutting back the administrative costs of regulation appealed to his desire to do good.
I moved on from the BRTF shortly after the end of David’s term of office, pleased with what we had achieved but knowing that there were still mountains to climb. In particular, I felt that taking the salami-slicing approach to regulatory reform was never going free us from destructive bureaucracy and poor regulation. Rather, I concluded that radical structural reform is necessary, particularly with regard to regulation of our public services.
In our report for the Centre for Policy Studies, Jonathan McMahon and I have set out how huge layers of bureaucracy and regulation can be swept away. We challenge a notion of central control that is deeply embedded within the consciousness of too many involved in politics and working in Whitehall. In particular, we do not accept the idea that for the public to have the standards they want, policing, medicine, education and social care need to be run centrally from Whitehall. We do not accept that we need tens of thousands of bureaucratic functionaries to check that standards are appropriately set and met.
In writing our report, we have spoken to many senior and junior professionals within the public services. We were depressed at the tales of enveloping bureaucracy inhibiting dedicated people from doing their best for fellow citizens but heartened at the reception we received and encouraged by the fact they wanted to help us set out a vision of a better future. We were struck by how many senior and junior public servants were convinced that, if they were given freedom to manage, they could use the same resources so much more creatively to deliver better results for our citizens.