Public Service Reform in the 2020s

What does 'public service reform' look like in the 2020s? This briefing considers three ways the Government might seek to ensure increased funding for public services is efficiently used in a post-austerity era.


  • The idea of ‘public service reform’ – measures to improve the quality or effectiveness of services without substantially increasing spending – is likely to regain prominence as political debate shifts away from funding.
  • Yet there seems to be little political appetite for a return to the ‘new public management’ approach, centred around choice, competition and marketisation, that dominated in the 1990s and 2000s.
  • This briefing considers three different approaches that might supplant it:
    1. Making service delivery more evidence-based. Practitioners can be better trained in using evidence, regulators tasked more explicitly with promoting evidence-based practice and there could be greater investment in evaluations to generate reliable evidence.
    2. Increasing the development and use of technology. Invest in and trial new technologies, such as robotics, and expand the use of established technologies (for example, digitising services).
    3. Ensuring services are more user-focused and relational. This entails four shifts in mindset and practice:
    • Interactions with public servants should be more ‘human’ and personal, and less transactional
    • Silos between different services should be broken down.
    • Users of public services should be empowered to use their own capabilities rather than being passive recipients of help
    • Delivery of services should be an adaptive learning process.
  • While these approaches are in some ways mutually supportive, there are also tensions between them – particularly between the goal of standardising evidence-based practice and personalising services.
  • Exploring these options is of urgent importance, with public service productivity flatlining for the past two decades outside of healthcare, where adoption of evidence-based practice and technology is most advanced.


Related items:

Page 1 of 1