Politicians must seize the opportunity to re-shape public services

Title underline

Politicians must set out a coherent long term approach to public services in advance of the Comprehensive Spending Review says the cross-party and authoritative Commission on 2020 Public Services. In its final report published today, the Commission calls for a complete reconfiguring of public services around the needs and capabilities of citizens, based on the principle of social productivity.

The report claims that our public services are increasingly unsustainable. The impact of an ageing society could load the equivalent of an extra 4-6% of GDP on to public spending over the next two decades. Inequality is rising and current public service productivity has been falling.


Salami sliced cuts are not the answer say the group, but fundamental reform based on long-term and strategic principles.  The Commission calls for a new deal between citizens and the state, based on social productivity - greater social responsibility and more intelligent collaboration between citizens and public services.  They propose three policy ‘shifts' to get there, based on eighteen months of research and analysis:

  1. A Shift in Culture: active collaboration between the citizens, society, the state and the market is the future of public service delivery.  Local people should be running public realm services - such as parks, leisure centres and libraries- as mutuals and cooperatives.  School curriculums should be more locally and community-determined.  New lifecycle social accounts should track tax, benefits and service use, and allow social contribution to be recorded and valued.

  2. A Shift in Power: our system is over-centralised and needs a radical shift in power away from the centre, towards citizens.  Where possible, citizens should commission services themselves using individual budgets and choice advisors.  Neighbourhoods should control their own integrated services.  Welfare services should be locally controlled.  Whitehall must get smaller, with a reduction in departments and ministers.

  3. A Shift in Finance: public services must be more open, transparent and understandable to citizens.  At a time of fiscal austerity, it is essential that political leadership squares with citizens about where the money is going.  An online statement of contributions and benefits should be available to everyone.  Co-payment models should be used for higher education and long-term social care.  Service providers should be paid by results.   

The Commission's report argues that, at a time of rapid change in public services, government must pay attention to some key lessons about managing change.

  • The Treasury must be open and honest with citizens about the scale of cuts and the potential impacts of key reforms.  58% of the public accept the need for cuts, but politicians have not spelled out their immediate or long-term impacts.  This must happen openly and transparently, or long-term reform will be undermined. 
  • Public service reform will be unsustainable without up-front investment and integrated local service plans to build social capacity in deprived areas.  The state must take a much more focused approach to tackling inequality and building community resilience.
  • Local control must be extended as a way of managing change and providing citizen-centric public services.  Without visible accountability and strategic, locality level commissioning, reforms in health, education and elsewhere risk fragmenting an already siloed system and reinforcing the centre.    

The Commission proposes a new set of arrangements to begin shifting power away from the centre and towards citizens and communities.  Its 2020 Locality model proposes a negotiated deal between citizens, local government and Whitehall based on a ‘more for less' principle: less funding from the centre, in return for greater control over defining outcomes and commissioning services. 

Chair of the 2020 Commission Sir Andrew Foster said: 

"The fiscal crisis must be used as an opportunity to re-shape public services for the long term.  We already know the demands ahead are unaffordable, and there is a real gap between what citizens want and what our services can deliver.  We have set out our own principles for 2020 public services.  It is now up to our politicians to demonstrate responsible leadership by being up-front and honest with citizens about the kind of society they want to see emerging from short term cuts and reforms."

2020 Public Services Trust Director Ben Lucas said:

"It is time to get beyond the stale debate over postcode lotteries - social outcomes are already different across the country under our supposedly universalist system.   Far better to have minimum national standards and allow localities to develop their own approaches to improving social outcomes."


For more information please contact Ashish Prashar on 07775 501 839

Notes to Editors

  • From social security to social productivity: a vision for 2020 Public Services is the final report of the Commission on 2020 Public Services.  The report calls for a complete reconfiguring of public services around the needs and capabilities of citizens, based on the principle of social productivity.  It argues that our public services are increasingly unsustainable. The Commission calls for a new deal between citizens and the state, based on social productivity - greater social responsibility and more intelligent collaboration between citizens and public services. Download the report.
  • In developing these principles for change the Commission has engaged with service users and public service professions through on-line forums and seminars, and with citizens through focus groups in locations across England spanning rural, urban and metroplitan areas.  Ipsos MORI conducted this research. 

  • The 2020 Public Services Trust is a registered charity (no. 1124095), based at the RSA. It is not aligned with any political party and operates with independence and impartiality. The Trust exists to stimulate deeper understanding of the challenges facing public services in the medium term. Through research, inquiry and discourse, it aims to develop rigorous and practical solutions, capable of sustaining support across all political parties.  For more information about the Trust please visit www.2020publicservicestrust.org

  • The Trust launched the Commission on 2020 Public Services in December 2008, to recommend the characteristics of a new public services settlement appropriate for the future needs and aspirations of citizens, and the best practical arrangements for its implementation.

  • Commission members span a wide breadth of political opinion, experience and expertise from academia, business, the voluntary sector, and the public policy and political world.  Sir Andrew Foster is the Chair, and members range from the Rt Hon Stephen Dorrell MP and Bridget Rosewell to Lord Victor Adebowale and Matthew Taylor.  The full list of members can be found here.

  • The Commission's work has been supported by a range of public, private and third sector organisations.  A full list of partners can be found here.

  • Following on from the publication of the 2020 Public Services Commission report, ‘From Social security to social productivity: a vision for 2020 Public Services' and the Government's Spending Review, this summit will discuss how public services can respond to adversity and current economic challenges by mobilising citizen and collective resources to create better social and economic outcomes. The RSA and 2020 Public Services Trust would like to offer you an early opportunity to secure your place at The 2020/RSA Public Services Summit at the RSA on Tuesday, 9th November 2010.


Media Enquiries

For media enquiries please contact:

Ashish Prashar
Stakeholder & Communications Manager
+44 (0)7775 501 839

Share using AddThis AddThis
Divider bar


Be the first to comment on this item!


Leave a comment

About you

Your comment

Anti-spam check: please enter the two words in the image below. If you're having trouble reading it, try refreshing the image.

We take no responsibility for the content of comments posted on this website, which represent the views of their authors alone.

« back


More videos

Thursday, 20 January 2011
COPD: Cautiously Optimistic about Payment on Delivery
About 15% of people my age have a long term condition. A little over two years ago I developed COPD: Cautiously Optimistic about Payment on Delivery, and have been unable to rid myself of the affliction. Thus having published Better Outcomes, a report exploring the what, where and why of payment-by-outcome, I and several colleagues ... more »
Wednesday, 5 January 2011
the condition of conditionality
Interesting contrast in a couple of news stories coming from the states in the last few days. On the one hand, portents in the Guardian of a difficult 2 years for President Obama in the face of a Republican controlled Congress. On the other, a piece in the New York Times on falling inequality in ... more »
Thursday, 25 November 2010
Local Identity – the photographic evidence?
Last night I was speaking at the mining institute in Newcastle at a roundtable discussing themes from LOCAL a book my Dad and I published recently. The book is a mix of photography (based on an artist-in-residence period at Cumbria County Council), and text (an essay on local politics & identity), and the roundtable ... more »