Public Pensions: unaffordable, or just unpopular with the Coalition?

David Cameron and his Lib Dem allies keep telling us that public sector pensions are “unaffordable”. A pity then that the cross-party Public Accounts Committee (PAC), but Coalition MPs are in a majority, seems to think this is nonsense. In a report issued last month, the say the public sector pensions problem has already been stabilised: Continue reading

Universal Credit Faces IT Problems – it’s official

Back in November 2010, and again in January 2011, I made said that the Universal Credit reforms had insanely tight timescales for implementation, especially given the scale and complexity of the IT developments necessary to make it work – you can read the original posts here: Welfare Reform: It’s the Implementation, Stupid and Great Train Wreck of 2013. And so it comes to pass. Continue reading

Mis-Placing NHS Funds?

The NHS has traditionally been organized, like most public services, on the basis of place.

This has been both a control and a planning mechanism. It is a planning mechanism because it uses available information about the demographic and health profile of an area and seeks to match provision to need. It is also a control mechanism, that ensures that spending doesn’t get out of control and that the distribution of resources is fair, in relation to need. Continue reading

Democratic Regulation – of private providers of public services

It is widely recognised, and mostly accepted, that ‘utilities’ provide a public service and not just private services, so it is legitimate to regulate them in ways that ensure the public interest. This is partly because there are always elements of natural monopoly in the way in which these services – power, water, fixed line telephony and cable, public transport, etc – can be delivered. It makes economic sense to only have one set of lines, pipes and cables going into one property, neighbourhood, etc. The other public interest dimension of these services is that they are regarded as essential – rights almost – for survival in a modern society. hence there is usually an obligation for ‘universal service’ which includes provision of service to uneconomic areas (e.g. remote rural locations) and strict conditions on suspension of supply, usually only in extremis. Continue reading

Working for Patients?

Back in the early 1990s I was living in London and my then GP was Dr John Dunwoody, ex husband of formidable Labour MP Gwyneth Dunwoody and himself a former Labour MP. John ran a singleton practice on the edge of Clapham Common.

I was visiting John as a patient just after the first wave of ‘market’ reforms of the NHS introduced by the then Conservative government. I was reminded of this last week when both David Cameron and Nick Clegg made speeches in which they extolled the virtues of ‘working for patients’ – they didn’t use the exact phrase, but that was the key sentiment. Continue reading