Beyond Beveridge: if not now, when?

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A new report published today 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. Reflecting the consensus of a politically diverse and authoritative group, it recommends a profound shift in culture, power and finance, away from central government and towards citizens, communities and localities.

Beyond Beveridge: Principles for 2020 Public Services concludes that whilst 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 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.

The report sets out an alternative, positive vision of a future in which public services help to build a more resilient society and competitive economy by mobilizing new social resources and enabling citizens and communities to take greater control and responsibility for their own lives. This would requires a revolution in thinking about public services, how they interact with citizens, and how they are governed, financed and held to account. The report argues for three big shifts, together creating a new model for public services:

  • A shift in culture: from social security to social productivity - public problems are best understood and solved with the active involvement of citizens - interacting with services and combining with other citizens.  In a new era of individual and social responsibility, public services must start from what people can do and want to become, rather than what they can't.  If people don't want to pay more in taxes for public services then they will need to contribute more in other ways; in welfare, ‘something for nothing' should be replaced by ‘something for something'; in education, there should be a more honest acknowledgement and encouragement of the contribution which parents and communities must make with schools to improve educational outcomes.
  • A shift in power: from the centre to citizens - a smaller centre, with fewer Ministers and departments, perhaps based around places, not functions.  The focus should be on enabling individuals and localities, and building capacity, rather than on delivery; extending individual budgets to allow direct commissioning of services by citizens and neighbourhoods; allowing choice of commissioner; pluralized local services; and a renaissance in local democracy, with more autonomous and more accountable local councils.
  • A shift in finance: reconnecting the finance of public services with the purposes they are intended to achieve - this means more transparency, with annual receipts of contributions and benefits, which are life cycle adjusted; and  more partnership funding social insurance models, in which citizens and the state contribute to the costof services which have individual and collective benefits, such as HE, adult social care and healthcare.

Chair of the 2020 Public Services Commission, Sir Andrew Foster 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.

"The Commission's principles for change point towards a very different way of doing things - helping citizens to make a bigger social contribution; telling the centre it must let g0; and asserting our right to know, where and how our money is being spent. They are the result of serious deliberation involving a broad spectrum of expert and citizen opinion.

"This moment of difficulty can be a moment for change. Citizens must take the lead. We have made a start. Others are joining us in a growing coalition for change. I invite everyone - citizens, public service workers, managers and decision makers - to do the same. "

Notes to Editors

  • 'Beyond Beveridge' is the interim report of the Commission on 2020 Public Services.  It sets out the urgency for change, the limits of our current public services settlement, and the need for a systematic and long-term approach to reform.  The report offers a positive vision for 2020 public services, and three policy building blocks to get us there: a shift in culture, a shift in power, and a shift in finance. The next stage of the Commission's work will involve applying the broad principles it has set out to four areas of public services the principles on which it will base its final conclusions in summer 2010. A copy of the full report can be downloaded here
  • 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. 
  • This will be published alongside - What do people want, need and expect from public services? A new report prepared by Ipsos MORI for the 2020 Public Services Trust and the RSA, reviewing the British public's views on public services.  
  • 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
  • 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.


Media Enquiries

For media enquiries please contact:

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

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