LDV

The Saturday debate: Choice is a poor way of improving public services

16 January 2010

Here’s your starter for ten as we experiment with a new Saturday slot posing a view for debate:

The enthusiasm across the political spectrum for using choice to raise standards in public services is misplaced because:

  1. For many public services, it’s vital to get the service right first time – for everyone. Children only get to go through school once. You don’t want to discover after a botched operation that you should have chosen a different surgeon.
  2. Choice requires surplus capacity to be meaningful – but it’s hard enough to fund minimum capacity in public services without also building in surplus capacity.
  3. Choice is greatly hampered when there are very long lead times for changes in the delivery of services, such as building new schools or hospitals. Those require decisions that have to be improved and informed by other methods.

Choice where possible is good, but increasing it is peripheral to raising standards in public services.

Agree? Disagree? Comment away…

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