27 June 2008
The current state of the public finances means the need for public sector reform is greater than ever, business leaders said this week.
As Public Finance went to press, CBI director-general Richard Lambert was set to tell the organisation's Public Services Summit on June 26 that the 'public service debate as a whole should never be restricted to times of economic plenty.
It is exactly when a period of fiscal belt-tightening is upon us that we should strive to find innovative ways of delivering services and discuss new ideas that will help meet people's desire for more and better services while being affordable to the country.'
In a YouGov survey, commissioned by the CBI and published on June 26, only 28% of 2,025 people said public services had improved in the past 11 years and 49% thought they had got worse.
The CBI believes the public appetite for more taxes is very limited, but there is support for speeding up reform.
The YouGov poll found 50% of respondents happy for services to be provided by anyone, assuming quality did not differ, and 66% saying the pace of reform should be faster.
'Many trade unions… are trying to strong-arm the government into reversing reforms,' Lambert was due to say. 'Both the unions and the ministers they are targeting need to recognise how out of kilter with public mood any anti-reform stance is.'
In health, Lambert was set to further criticise opposition to diversifying public service providers, by saying: 'The one-size-fits-all, top-down, post-war consensus model of public service delivery should not be kept going artificially because of misplaced nostalgia or trade union agitation, even if the union is as respected as the BMA [British Medical Association].'
A CBI report, A healthy choice: building a stronger NHS, also published on June 26, says competition and patient choice must play a central role in the health service.