The Case for Public Service Reform


Our public services are not working in the way their creators intended – overwhelmed by demand, letting too many people down, often fuelling mistrust and disconnection and increasing the burden on the state yet further.


ICC Director Chris Naylor, former chief executive of Barking and Dagenham Council in East London, explores what a new public sector could look like, as councils face tighter budgets this spring and are pressed to deliver the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda.


“On the face of it, this is a programme about public service reform, but really, it’s about people, and their power and so it becomes about politics. Our public services were designed for a time of full employment; of economic growth – where basic needs were met; a bygone era, where women stayed at home to look after their children and older relatives, and where men were bread winners,” says Naylor.


“But lives are complex and fragile. And the state isn’t just needed episodically for a treatment or cure but it’s often knotted into the fabric of people’s lives for decades and across generations. As a result, those services cost more and more and their impact isn’t as clear as it once was. We need to look again at social economic investment and what designing preventative, reformed services can yield.”

You can listen to the programme here:


Contributors include Polly Mackenzie, chief executive of cross party think tank Demos; author and social entrepreneur Hilary Cottam; Donna Hall, former chief executive of Wigan Council and now chair of the think tank and campaigning organisation New Local and Danny Kruger, Conservative MP for Devizes in Wiltshire and advisor to the prime minister on the development of a new social covenant, Darren Rodwell, Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council and Alison McKenzie Folan, Chief Executive of Wigan Council

The programme also speaks to local people in Wigan and Barking and Dagenham to see how a different approach to running and delivering public services is changing people’s lives right now.

“It was great to make this programme. But we’re just at the start of the work. Come with us, and join the movement for change,” Naylor says.