The Government is spending over £10bn in five years just to keep troubled services – such as hospitals and prisons – going. Yet this extra money is not sorting out any of the underlying problems these services face.
Performance Tracker, published today by the Institute for Government and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), looks at 100 data sets across nine key public services and finds government is being forced into poor and reactionary spending decisions, instead of getting ahead of problems before they become crises.
Key findings from the report include:
- Hospitals and prisons are spending more, with no sign of improvement in key pressure points.
- Schools and adult social care have had emergency cash injections, but there is no clear plan for what happens when this extra money runs out.
- GP numbers are not rising, despite the Government’s plans to improve the service.
- UK Visas and Immigration managed the initial post-referendum surge in demand, but a much greater task lies ahead.
- Government does not have enough data to manage risks around vital neighbourhood services like bin collection and road maintenance.
The Chancellor has little scope for manoeuvre in the upcoming budget. The choices open to him are getting narrower by the day, with weak economic forecasts and the challenge of budgeting for Brexit. Meanwhile, the debate over police numbers and the public sector pay rumbles on.
The report concludes that in services such as prisons and hospitals, the Chancellor has no choice but to spend more. When it comes to schools and adult social care, the Government as a whole must make tough and increasingly urgent policy decisions.
Finally, Performance Tracker calls for the creation of a new watchdog, similar to the Office of Budget Responsibility, to scrutinise assumptions underpinning government spending decisions.