Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Sunny June Morning Manifesto

It's a sunny morning and I have a day of admin ahead including the joys of tax returns. So, instead, here is an off the cuff, undigested and unrefined list of ten things that would make the sun shine more frequently for me. Yes, it’s political (it could hardly be anything else) but these are frustrations with the current state of the public policy debate across the piece:
1. Fair, living wages: a low wage economy treats working people as units of production not humans and has immense impacts on our economy and our society; not least it cost shunts from employers to taxpayers through benefits and tax credits
2. Fair rents: high rents subsidised by the benefit system is yet more cost shunting onto the public purse and leads to misery for many
3. On social issues, morality after the fact is at best unhelpful and in some cases positively disastrous. Everyone makes duff choices in their lives; some of us are in the fortunate position to be able to pick up the pieces ourselves. We should not be damning people who are not in that position and compounding their problems - whether through withdrawal of benefits or services
4. On economics, in contrast, morality needs to play a bigger part. In particular, paying taxes is an entry pass to being a member of society: thin lines between evasion and avoidance should cut no mustard
5. Collective insurance is almost always a better bet in terms of efficiency than individual arrangements: from the licence fee in broadcasting to tax and national insurance for health and social care
6. Choice should be about much more fine grained issues of how things are done not about who does them. Obsessive discussion about choice of provider has occupied us far too much for far too long
7. Dodgy financial arrangements are generally just that: dodgy. PFI has now been shown to be what most of us always thought: a very expensive way of paying for things with complete capture by the provider but precious little by way of real transfer of risk. Don't repeat the same kind of problems with some of the new wheezes being dreamed up and in particular recognise that payment by results means lots of different things to different people. It is no more a panacea than PFI
8. Innovation is frequently not innovative. That doesn't matter particularly but the clamour for bright shiny and new can be distracting: for the most part we have been there in some form before and frankly that's fine
9. Co-production has a major role but it should not be oversold. People, residents, users (whatever name we use) do have a genuine interest in being involved with some design and with some delivery but imagining that this translates into a whole new way of business across swathes of services is fanciful
10. Anti-politics must be fought. Politicians in modern democracies have a dreadfully hard job but a vital one. Whether it is businesses who prefer to avoid the messy stuff of deliberation in favour of nice clean 'deals' or that 'plague on all their houses' feeling we need elected and accountable political leaders and decision makers. In the current climate, politicians need to matter more in stark contrast to big finance and big business. But they also need to do the very hard job of saying things to us that we don't want to hear:  such as 'the local district hospital really does need to close if we are really going to be able to shift money to more effective primary care'.

The sun has now gone behind a cloud. So I’ll stop.

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