How to save public service choice for liberalism?

Bold, liberal tax reformsDavid Boyle
March 2015

This paper looks at choice and its meaning through the prism of public service provision. David Boyle asserts that neither the Right’s response to poor choice in regards to public services (let bad providers go bust) nor the Left’s (grin and bear bad services for the overall common good) is really good enough.

"Quality" is another word that has lost a great deal of meaning dependent on which political party stripes it’s being uttered under. What counts as quality in public service provision will inevitably cover a huge number of factors.

The essay is the fourth in a series of papers addressing contemporary issues in public policy from a liberal perspective. A selection of these papers will be published collectively in a forthcoming special edition publication, 'The Challenges Facing Contemporary Liberalism: 2015-2025'. Here are the others released so far:

Maajid Nawaz: On Blasphemy
Tim Farron, Neil Stockley and Duncan Brack: Economic liberalism, climate change and green growth
Adam Corlett: Bold, liberal tax reforms

Download the report

Broadcasting by consent

Fit for growth: investing in a stronger skills base to 2020Jacquie Hughes
February 2015

'Broadcasting by consent' identifies the need for a fresh and clear statement of public service broadcasting for the modern era. It argues that BBC Charter renewal in 2017 should provide to the corporation a clear instruction to transform itself over the next decade towards an operating base that is more closely aligned with a pluralistic, competitive, digitalised broadcast industry.

The paper supports greater contested funding for wider elements of the licence fee over the period of the next Charter. While retained, the licence fee should be reconfigured to embrace consumption of all media regardless of equipment used. Its reach should be extended to apply to every UK household.

The paper also urges a shake up of the corporation’s senior appointments process to ensure greater transparency. The chair of the BBC Trust should continue to be appointed by the relevant secretary of state, but made on the recommendation of the civil service commission through independent and open recruitment. The same arrangement should be put in place for the appointment of all non-executive directors to the BBC Trust Board.

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Access the media release

Read CentreForum's response to the DCMS Select Committee report on the future of the BBC (26 February 2015)

Select media coverage: The Sun, The Times

Fit for growth

Fit for growth: investing in a stronger skills base to 2020Tom Frostick
February 2015

'Fit for growth: investing in a stronger skills base to 2020' looks at how policymakers can build a skills system that promotes choice and flexibility for individuals and is more responsive to employer demand.

As well as proposing a revamped version of the professional and career development loan to widen access to lifelong learning and training, the report calls for new universities legislation that would better protect the student interest, and an intensive focus across schools and colleges on boosting literacy and numeracy; building pupils' character and entrepreneurial qualities; and raising the standard of teaching and careers guidance.

Other recommendations include making better use of professional bodies to support workplace training, and a call for greater clarity around the funding and expected outcomes of apprenticeships. The report's authors come from a number of fields and include representatives from academia and business, a professional body and a trade association.

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Access the media release

Select media coverage: TESTimes Higher

Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable MP: "This is a welcome initiative from CentreForum and the Chartered Insurance Institute bringing together some thoughtful ideas on the future direction of skills policy."

Dr Sandy Scott, CEO, Chartered Insurance Institute: "The CII welcomes this report and the light it shines on the building blocks required to boost the UK's skills base, both in the short and longer term."

Bold, liberal tax reforms

Bold, liberal tax reformsAdam Corlett
February 2015

We hear a lot about how government should spend (or not spend) our money, but far less about how that revenue could best be raised. Yet the design of the tax system – which collects over a third of GDP – shapes our economy and society. The UK’s taxes are in need of reform over the next decade and liberals – through our philosophy, policies and political influence – are best placed to deliver them.

This paper examines six of the most important challenges: simplifying income taxes; taxing investment returns intelligently; fixing corporate tax biases; reforming inheritance tax; taxing real estate; and making consumption taxes fair.

The essay is the third in a series of papers addressing contemporary issues in public policy from a liberal perspective. A selection of these papers will be published collectively in a forthcoming special edition publication, 'The Challenges Facing Contemporary Liberalism: 2015-2025'.

The first, by Maajid Nawaz, can be viewed here and the second paper, by Tim Farron, Neil Stockley and Duncan Brack, here.

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Retiring Trident

Migration: a liberal challengeToby Fenwick
February 2015

This report recommends that the UK should replace its Trident submarines with an air dropped nuclear deterrent and save up to £13 billion for priority defence equipment spending.

It finds that the Trident programme – which is due to be renewed after the general election in May –  is an “expensive and excessive” solution to the nation’s nuclear deterrence requirements, even by extraordinary standards set during the Cold War.

Since the UK government’s Trident Alternatives Review in July 2013, the US has proceeded with a new air-dropped nuclear weapon for NATO - the ‘B61 Mod 12’ - which CentreForum considers a credible design for UK to copy. This option was not considered by the official review.

The report argues that Britain’s forthcoming F-35 Joint Strike Fighters – a stealth aircraft bought for conventional missions – should be adapted to deliver a minimum nuclear deterrent based upon a stockpile of 100 British built B61-12 nuclear bombs. 

It contains illustrative scenarios to show how this model could be successfully employed against unlikely but potential nuclear threats and ensure that deterrence is achieved.

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Access the media release

Select media coverage: The Herald, The ScotsmanSunday Times