Creativity not confrontation – by John Redwood MP

Ministers would be wise to tone down the rhetoric of massive cuts. They need to mobilise, energise and reform the public services. Labour made clear in their marathon moan in the Commons yesterday into the early hours of this morning that they are out to talk the economy down, highlight alleged huge cuts in jobs and services and campaign with the Unions against sensible change. The government needs to be smart and careful in its choice of words to bring about the improvements in quality and performance needed.

This morning I am talking to a the wider share ownership movement. We need to encourage new types of public service, where former state employees take on running their own public service. We need to offer participation in Third sector solutions to public service problems, and to use more companies to help deliver what we need.

The British debate is dogged by such a narrow definition of public service. To Labour a public service has to have state employees delivering a service free to users at the point of use through monopoly provision. This can so often stifle innovation and give us the high costs of monopoly rather than the economies of scale. To me the provision of the daily bread, milk and newspaper is as much a public service as the local library or refuse collection. We need in each case to ask how can the public service be best delivered, where state money is involved, and find that right combination of companies, charities and direct employment which delivers the best answer. Often the popular feature of current public sector provision is the free at the point of use, which the government is pledged to keep, more than the method of delivery.

There are good people in state employment who would like the opportunity to run their own school, organise their own bit of public service, seek to do things better than they have been allowed to do under the top down state directed model of the last government. Labour last night showed in the debate they have learned nothing about to how to modernise and improve public service, still seeing it in a narrow partisan and ideological way. The one thing they are good at is running a strongly worded opposition to all change that might benefit us with better and better value public service.


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