Today ive been writing a short piece with my colleague Paul. It is an introduction to a report we are co-publishing with the RSA, which is based around a review of public opinion on public services put together by Ipsos MORI.
The review pulls together qual & quant data on what citizens want, need and value from public services, and engages with live debates on fairness, localism, choice and engagement. We are publishing the whole thing on March 18th.
The 2020 Commission’s interim report will emerge on the same day. And although a lot of the citizen opinion work has influenced what is said in the interim report, the documents will feel very different. Writing the intro, I wondered whether this is a problem. Our commission is broad, with a range of political and vocational interests. So its interim recommendations are also broad, and reflect a way of thinking that could be applied in different ways by different people.
But working around the hard numbers of citizen opinion is slightly different. The public overwhelmingly dislike the idea of local variation in public services – yet our commission is likely to advocate a less centralised system. 75% of the public think that efficiency savings will suffice in the face of a spending squeeze, yet our commission will suggest otherwise.
The question is how to interpret what people value. Our report suggests that we a fearful of postcode lotteries, yet we really value the idea of local engagement and influence. So: a more nuanced reading of the figures, taking some chances and reading between the lines, and trusting the public is what I think. As one interviewee told me last week, in enabling change, ‘framing is everything’.