Choice doesnt mean better, says think-tank

21 Aug 03

22 August 2003

The government's policy of 'choice' in public services is costly, will come at the expense of quality and will increase deprivation, the Fabian Society warned this week.

The centre-Left think-tank urged the government to downgrade its principle of choice, seen most notably in health and education, and focus on improving efficiency.

In a report published on August 18, A better choice of choice, the society rejects the government's view that greater choice automatically increases the quality of life.

The report said that choice is fundamentally flawed because it requires citizens to spend considerable time on research, leaving those unable to do so 'disempowered and demotivated'. It is also expensive, with the only real choice in the private sector.

The society claims that increasing the variety of goods or services can come at the expense of other kinds of choice, such as a social benefit or environmental sustainability.

'Many market choices on offer are relatively trivial, while vital alternative choices which could improve the quality of life are not available,' said the report's author Roger Levett.

The report points to parental choice in schools as an example. It argues that once a school is seen as desirable it can effectively choose the children it wants, rather than parents choosing. Other schools then have to accept pupils who have been rejected elsewhere, thus making bad schools worse.

The report also claims that choice has affected bus travel, with an over-proliferation of services on popular, profitable routes, while others have suffered.

The government is currently rolling out the policy in hospitals, allowing patients to choose where they are treated.


Did you enjoy this article?