The Paragon Initiative Opening Paper
“English votes for English laws” no solution to problems caused by devolution
The IEA launches a major new five-year project
The UK’s current model of government is failing and unsustainable.
Over the past 150 years, politicians have taken over many aspects of our lives that were previously the responsibility of families, civil society and local government, and centralised them in the hands of a small number of ministers and civil servants.
This huge growth in government has been associated with demonstrably poor outcomes and public services, often falling behind international best practice:
• In managing the public finances politicians have run deficits in 52 of the last 60 years; the official national debt (at £80,000 per family) is historically unprecedented after a long period of peace and the state has made huge future commitments in unfunded health and pension liabilities
• In health the UK ranks 20th out of 24 OECD countries on cancer survival rates and 24th out of 30 countries on the ‘efficiency’ of the health system
• In education 40 per cent of pupils do not get the accepted minimum standard of GCSE grades A* to C in English and Maths by age 16. More shockingly, 90 per cent of those who don’t reach this basic standard by 16 don’t achieve it by age 19
• In social outcomes there are 3.3 million UK households with at least one member aged 16 to 64 where no-one is currently working. This equates to 6 million people living in workless households (4.5 million people of working age and 1.5 million children)
• In regulating the economy politicians have raised costs and restricted opportunity. Land use planning regulations, for example, have raised house prices by as much as 40 per cent above what they would be under a more liberal regime
• In political terms there is now widespread disillusionment with the current model of government. In May 2014, a ComRes poll posed the question: “Do you trust government?” 20% said they did, whilst 9% didn’t know. An overwhelming 71% said they didn’t trust government.
The most important reasons for these failures of central government are: complexity, over-centralisation, monopoly and bad management. Together these have taken power away from end users of services – making government unresponsive to the wants and needs of individuals and inflexible to changing technologies and demography.
Achieving effective government to meet the challenges of today and the future therefore requires politicians to be bold enough to completely re-think the scope of the state and how its functions are delivered and managed.
The Paragon Initiative is a major new five-year project. It will be the largest body of research ever undertaken by the IEA.
The aim is to assess in detail the current problems we face across all major government functions. It will be highly critical of the performance of government, because unless politicians acknowledge the poor outcomes and understand their underlying causes, no action will be taken to deliver the significant changes required.
The Initiative will determine the fundamental reforms that are needed to the way we are governed to solve these problems, and produce a roadmap towards a world where people have more control over their own lives and politicians are able to concentrate more effectively on the core functions of government.
The end point will be a series of research papers which, taken together, will outline:
• what the core business of central government should be;
• how these core functions should be managed;
• which non-core functions can be better managed by civil society, voluntary organisations or local government;
• how effective government can be maintained