That passports will become cheaper is encouraging, both because it is a reduction in living costs (however paltry) and because there is an explicit link being made between the departmental savings and the reduction in cost. I hope this is indicative of what should be a wider trend: the link between the government’s spending of our money and the cost and crucially value of the services it procures.
The discussions this week about the cost and funding of social care; Nick Boles’ kite-flying about pensioner benefits; the ongoing argument about different models of provider within education, welfare and health… All these things must focus on something that in the years of plenty we forgot – namely, that they cost both money and effort, and that there needs to be a greater value wrought out of that money and effort. If they don’t work or are actively encouraging us in the wrong direction, we shouldn’t do them.
As I tweeted recently:
At the same time as examining what our money actually pays for, we also (as I have said for years) need to decide what we as a society want to spend our money on.
As David Aaronovitch wrote on Thursday,
“…attack usually comes, not as an assault, but in the form of change. Sometimes that aversion is justified: developers and authorities can be greedy, stupid and careless. But often it’s just necessary, and just as often we fear it and devote all our wits and all our inventiveness to the act of frustration.”
We still have not recognised that the financial crisis and our years of over-spending have left us with no alternative other than to consciously consider what we value. If the government is serious about resolving our financial problems, it must continue to reform and change and squeeze value out of everything it does. The only way that that will work, though, is if we as citizens understand and engage in what is being proposed.
There should be a link between what we put in and what we get out; there must be accountability for people who simply refuse to try; and there is to be a way to both allow for personal agency and guarantee universal coverage and accessibility.
The Coalition Agreement seemed to have much of that in mind. As I wrote yesterday, the government should go back to the spirit of it, use all the things it has learnt while in power, and ensure that it delivers what it promised.