David Cameron made a splash on Monday with an article in the Telegraph calling for an end to monolithic state provision of public services. Downing Street officials were rather vague that day about what it all meant – beyond saying that charities and companies would get a chance to run (or at least bid for) some services. But the prime minister’s message dominated the media cycle that day.
We will find out more when the white paper is published within the next fortnight. Meanwhile the prime minister has achieved the desired impression; that he is a reformer in the Blair mould who wants to see better public services.
What will have passed many people by is that the government has meanwhile quietly dropped its proposal for quotas to ensure that voluntary and private groups deliver a certain proportion of services – as my colleague Nick Timmins revealed the next morning. This rather undermines the idea that ministers are about to force through a revolution in delivery.
As Nick revealed:
That idea was set out in last October’s comprehensive spending review, which said the government would “look at setting proportions of appropriate services across the public sector that should be delivered by independent providers”.
It said it would explore the idea first in social care, early years, community health, pathology, youth, court and tribunal services.
On Monday, however, Whitehall sources confirmed that the idea of quotas had been dropped, not least because – as lawyers warned – it looked likely to fall foul of competition law.