Public services: looking beyond Beveridge

A new report looks at the options for public services in the 21st century and urges a more forward-thinking approach

A new report published by the 2020 Public Services Commission says that the current political debate is too short term and narrow, missing the point about the need for fundamental change to our public services.

Beyond Beveridge: Principles for 2020 Public Services recommends a profound shift in culture, power and finance, away from central government and towards citizens, communities and localities.

It concludes that while the 1942 Beveridge Plan has served society well, it is now stretched beyond its limit.

Society now faces new challenges such as an ageing society, entrenched inequality and behavioural challenges associated with public health, civility and climate change which the current settlement was not designed for, the report says.

It also cites new evidence about the disjuncture between political and public opinion on the impact of the fiscal position on public services and the scale of the future demand. In the face of sharp fiscal constraints, the report argues that we risk sleepwalking towards a bleak future in which public services are retrenched but not reformed, becoming increasing poor services for a marginalised minority.

Sir Andrew Foster, chair of the 2020 Public Services Commission said: "We are emerging from the longest recession since the 1930s and facing huge challenges. But what we are being offered by politicians is a narrow and limited set of choices – cut now or cut later.

"We cannot just go on doing the same things with less money. If we do, we will continue to fail those who rely on public services the most. We need a new approach – one that is positive, coherent, consensus based and long term. It should be built on sound principles that are in tune with our times, and deliverable if we stay the course."

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