The report shows weaknesses in government’s ability to design and manage effective markets in public service provision, following examinations of the Work Programme, social care for older people, probation commissioning and the emerging ‘quasi market’ in secondary education. We argue that there needs to be genuine competition for public service markets to work. Users – or commissioners choosing on their behalf – need to be able to spot which providers are doing well or badly. And contracts need to be designed to ensure that providers don’t ‘hit the targets but miss the point’. But these conditions are met far too rarely – suggesting outsourcing and commissioning reforms may be too vast and rapid for government to handle. Competition is not sufficiently prioritised. As academy chains expand across the school system, many are focusing on specific parts of the country. Will this really boost parental choice? Does DfE have clear plans for what they will do in the event of the failure of one of these chains? It’s noticeable too that the same providers are operating in many different sectors – for example, there is a very high degree of overlap in the providers of justice and employment services. The Independent’s […]

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