Politics has been interesting over the past few weeks!

We have had both political drama through the sacking of Suella Braverman and attempts to shape the next election through the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.

While the King’s Speech was a bit of an anticlimax no one interested in politics can be disappointed by the events of the last few weeks – Suella Braverman breaking protocol to attack the police, her sacking, and the return of former PM David Cameron – all so febrile because the backdrop is a general election probably a year away. Throw in the second most important fiscal event of the year which offered a little in tax cuts for voters but almost nothing for hard pressed public services.

BUT… Those of us involved in UK public policy need to try and step aside from the tragic geopolitics of the Middle East and the febrile atmosphere of Westminster to consider what are the policy interventions we need to be influencing when a new Government emerges in 2024 or 2025with a set of challenges in front of them.

Post Election, the NHS will be in crisis, local government will be seeing more and more councils on the financial brink, no one will be proffering huge increases in public spending to fix the challenges that are a clear and present danger, and the generational and economic divides will be growing.

So, what do we do? Well, firstly those of us who care about outcomes for our citizens must not stand idly by and wring our hand but step forward and proffer solutions. One of the freedoms I am enjoying no longer being a bureaucrat in the machine is the freedom to speak out and to seek to influence the debate.  My answer… we have to be radical and to challenge the assumptions, norms and vested interests.

This is one of the reasons I have chosen to work with PPL – they are a set of like-minded leaders who still want to change the world but who are prepared to literally put their money where their mouths are and to make things better.

So how should we seek to reinvent public services for the later half of the 2020’s…?

  1. Outcomes matter – politics is about perception (understandably) but we need to ditch populism and really focus on changing outcomes. Let’s set ourselves targets to reduce homelessness, improve skills, attainment and reduce poverty. If you don’t know why you are doing stuff and what you are trying to achieve it’s pointless. Those of us who are leading change need to be bold that this is what we are trying to do – better to have had the ambition and failed….
  2. Just because there have been false dawns before doesn’t mean that smashing the silos is wrong. At every level central government, the NHS and local government the system is designed to stop things being effective because it manages, measures and has political achievement in silos – no family separates their home from school, but the system does …. We have to change this an manage places and systems across the public sector
  3. People powered change works best in partnership with effective and efficient bureaucracies – we think that doing the right thing or empowering people is the answer it’s not – you have to do both together – harness community power with great public service not make a false choice. We have to help both public services and communities bridge the divide.
  4. My colleague Senior Advisor Halima recently authored a report that (to paraphrase) said the answer isn’t the magic money tree or reform but both. 100% – there aren’t enough resources in public services, but many are also inefficient, paternalistic and resistant to change – there has to be a deal … not throwing any new money after bad but a root and branch assessment of what works
  5. It’s the economy …. Stupid – we can’t generate wealth, social justice, and public spending without a vibrant economy. However, this needs to be inclusive and broad ranging, environmentally responsible and redistributive – we also have to reward risk takers and entrepreneurs so in return for good green jobs, social responsibility and tax revenue we have to embrace people making a profit in a socially responsible way.
  6. Fix social care – the third rail of British politics but one I guess almost no Minister understands – Of course we should not ignore the inequity of those who have to pay for social care but not for health – but until now much of the debate has been about how unfair this is – the real issue of course is that if you are medically unwell the state responds free at the point of delivery but if you need care … well! We have to find a way of integrating this into a seamless system as a matter of national pride and social justice.

Finally, we must change the narrative, approach and mindset of those who want to address the challenges we face.  We have talked prevention, early intervention, and a public health approach for a long time. But in my view, we have never won the real argument… You have to at the beginning double run – manage the existing system and fund the change – yes that is difficult but if we don’t, we’ll “do what we’ve always done and get what’s we’ve always got”

When it’s febrile we need to stand up and win the argument.