Public Services Faces 'Perfect Storm'

Title underline

They argue that in the face of severe fiscal constraints, efficiency savings and traditional Treasury-led cost-management strategies will not be enough to meet people's needs. Instead, a radical rethink of the role and purpose of public services is required.

The Scoping the Challenges series aims to inform the thinking of the Trust's major Commission on public services due to complete next year. They provide a snapshot of the challenges facing public services in future. The first report, carried out by futures consultancy Trajectory, identifies five major drivers of societal change that will shape the future demands on public services:

  • Demographic driven demand: increased demand for public service because of ageing and, potentially, a larger than expected number of young families in the population.
    Shifting identities: individuals have more complex identities and affiliations at the family, community, local and national levels, presenting challenges in deciding the mix of services required, and how these should be organised.
  • Reconciling individual and social goods: there is currently little consensus about how to balance people's individual demands with broader needs and benefits with fundamental differences in values and priorities existing between sections of society.
  • Rising expectations: citizens expect more from public services, particularly service standards that meet the best that the private sector can offer.
  • Technology: technology is changing the way we live, work and interact. It can provide solutions but as a key driver of change presents real challenges around digital exclusion, workforce skills and rapid adaptation.

The report explores three central challenges facing policy makers:

  • How to respond to the cost pressures arising out of future demand challenges for public services ranging from the consequences of an ageing population, the expected rise in the birth rate to climate and behavioural change.
  • How to secure public consent for the state to act where solutions are clear but require behavioural change by citizens, and
  • How to enhance the capability of public services to harness the power of technology and the information on services performance that citizens hold.

Ben Lucas Director of 2020 Public Services Trust, said:

"These reports only strengthen the importance of a debate about the huge challenges facing public services over the next decade. Public services face a perfect storm of rising demand from an ageing, more diverse and more assertive citizenry coupled with a drastic squeeze on spending. The traditional Treasury approach of salami slicing savings across public services will not work, much more radical choices will need to be made about public services and how risk and responsibility should be shared between citizens, society and the state. At a time when the legitimacy of many of our institutions from parliament to banking has been badly undermined, it is more important than ever that there is a proper public debate about the future of our public services. Through the Commission we will be aiming to stimulate a public discussion about what a new social contract should look like."

Sir Andrew Foster, Chair of the Commission on 2020 Public Services, said:

"The Commission exists to develop a deeper understanding of the future challenges facing our public services. To do this, we must take into account not only the impact of the current fiscal crisis, but also the real and pressing nature of other, long-term demand pressures. The Commission welcomes these reports as a significant step towards this, and looks forward to meeting these challenges head on."

Craig Baker, Partner, Ernst & Young said:


“Ernst & Young are delighted to support what is clearly an important and timely contribution to the debate about the future of public services.”


Notes to Editor

Scoping the Challenges - A Brief History of Public Service Reform - argues that, despite decades of public service reform (most of it focused on providing a more accountable, citizen-focused set of public services), we still fundamentally rely on an underlying settlement grounded in the implementation of the Beveridge report in 1945. The publication takes a look at the key tensions arising from this, and asks whether it is time for more fundamental change - questioning the purposes, as well as the organisation, of public services. A full copy can be downloaded here.

Scoping the Challenges - Drivers for Change; Citizen Demand in 2020 - reminds us that the fiscal crisis is not the only challenge facing public services in the medium term. Our research - carried out by futures consultancy Trajectory - suggests that real cost pressures will come from an ageing and increasingly diverse population, and the challenge of encouraging behavioural change in areas such as climate change, public health and beyond. A full copy can be downloaded here.

The reports were kindly supported by Ernst and Young.

The Trust exists to develop a deeper understanding of the challenges facing UK public services over the medium term. Its recently launched independent and cross party Commission on 2020 Public Services, chaired by Sir Andrew Foster, aims to lay the basis for a new post-Beveridge public service settlement.

The Commission's membership is made up of leading figures from public services, economics, the voluntary sector and business and from across the political spectrum. The Commission membership has been completed with the recent appointment of the Rt Hon Stephen Dorrell MP, former Health Secretary in John Major's government and the chair of the Conservative public service review group . The full list of Commissioners is available here.

The Commission on 2020 Public Services will release its final report in the summer of next year to give the newly elected government a blueprint for a new public services settlement.

Download the full press release as a PDF






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 »