Across the world, the quality of the public realm is now the central battleground of politics. Governments will stand or fall on their effectiveness at renewing public goods.
In the UK, New Labour’s strategy for public service reform stands at a crossroads. There is no question that most public services in Britain have improved over the last six years. Yet nobody is satisfied. Reformers are caught between the modesty of incremental improvement and the unpredictable effects of unconstrained diversity.
Two questions stand out. What will convince people that the quality and responsiveness of services have really improved? And how do existing reform strategies generate the legitimacy required for more radical change?
In this collection of essays, leading thinkers and practitioners argue that these questions can only be answered with a sharper moral and political vision of the role that public services play in people’s lives. There is a need to revisit the purpose of government itself, and explore models of organisational change for which the state is not currently equipped. It remains to be seen which political party or set of institutions will make these new approaches its own.