The IPPR recent briefing, The Long View, contributed to by the CBI, stresses the importance of addressing long-term public services reform challenges now.
The reports acknowledges the pressure on public spending budgets as a result of the necessary drive to reduce the deficit, but also highlights future pressures, such as the ageing population and potentially lower tax revenues.
The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that on current trends, by 2030, public spending will outstrip revenues, mainly due to health and age-related spending. The number of people aged over 85 is set to more than double over the next 25 years, while it’s estimated that up to 48% of men and 43% of women in the UK could be obese by 2030, both of which would cost billions in health and age related spending.
That is why, the briefing argues, we must have an open debate now about how we respond to these pressures, otherwise public services will come under an unsustainable squeeze. This means asking challenging questions about which services we prioritise, how we make services more preventative, rather than reactive, and opening up provision to the private and voluntary sectors.
Politicians and the public are rightly focused on the immediate economic challenges facing the UK, but in dealing with the crisis we must also think about the long-term challenges.
We cannot afford to bury our head in the sand on public services reform, otherwise when the UK emerges from austerity it will face a double whammy of rising pressures on public spending and falling tax receipts.
Tinkering around the edges or just going after low hanging fruit will not be enough. As a country we’ll have to take major strategic decisions about our public services if we are to keep the books balanced and meet social needs.
The CBI strongly believes that opening up public services to a diversity of providers can drive improvements in the quality of service that people receive, and deliver significant savings to the taxpayer.
These are big choices about our future, but we must think about them now so that we deliver a leaner and fitter public sector for generations to come.
The CBI will publish a major report on the benefits of opening up public services later this year.
:: Sarah Green is regional director CBI North East