This chapter highlights key features of the coalition government’s approach to public expenditure from 2010 to 2015. It notes the use of the ideas of ‘austerity’ and the public deficit to justify the extent and shape of cuts in public spending and argues that the ‘disaggregation’ of public spending as a result had a profound impact on the shape and nature of social policy in the UK, with some groups and services affected significantly more than others. The chapter suggests that under the Conservative government elected in 2015 the demands of austerity and the promise of a budget surplus by 2019/20 mean that the pressures on public spending and the welfare state will continue.
This introductory chapter examines the ‘whys and wherefores of Brexit’, considering not just the political roots of the referendum result but also its complex social and economic roots. The analysis suggests that although voters were largely influenced by a narrow range of core issues — notably the impact of rising net migration, anxieties about sovereignty and fears about the trajectory of the UK economy — these concerns may in turn have been provoked by two factors. First, labour markets became increasingly ‘flexible’ and less secure as a result of globalisation, and, second, this insecurity was compounded by the significant tilt towards ‘austerity’ in the period after 2010. This latter factor, in particular, had an immediate negative impact on the living standards of the most deprived groups in the UK and on the public services upon which they depend.
This chapter examines the origins and nature of the Big Society ‘project’ to consider how the idea fits with the Coalition government’s social policies. It argues that the idea of the Big Society has been informed by three broad perspectives within the Conservative Party these are: ‘Burkean’, ‘pragmatic’ and ‘compassionate’ perspectives. It notes that while the perspectives have much in common in advocating decentralisation and the promotion of civil society, there are critical differences in tone, emphasis and task, which not only result in the Big Society remaining a fairly unfocused and heterogeneous ‘vision’, but which also might result in it taking different forms in the different policies of government ministries. It adds concerns about the feasibility of the Big Society, in terms of both the adequacy of the level of government funding committed to supporting Big Society initiatives, and the capacity of the third sector to fill the gaps created by the withdrawal of central government, in a way that is ‘socially and spatially coherent’.
This chapter explores the Conservative Party’s attitudes to public expenditure since 1945, highlighting the two key periods of sustained Conservative rule, 1951–64 and 1979–97. The argument, put briefly, is that Conservative attitudes to public spending have been rather more ‘ambivalent’ over the years than the party’s embedded scepticism about the benefits of public expenditure would suggest. It starts by giving some basic information about public spending. Additionally, the chapter demonstrates how difficult it is for governments to reduce public spending. It is quite possible that the apparent success with which the Coalition government managed to transform what was originally a private-sector banking crisis into a crisis of the public sector means that the way has been cleared for a sustained assault on public spending.
Social Policy Review 14 continues the tradition of providing a different style and approach to policy issues from that found in most academic journals and books. Chapters have been purposely chosen to review a varied and interesting selection of social policy developments in Britain and internationally, and to set current policy developments in a broader context of key trends and debates.
Social Policy Review 15 continues the tradition of providing a different style and approach to policy issues from that found in most academic journals and books. Welfare and Welfare Reform in the USA, Europe and the UK combines issues such as globalization, Europe and pensions with examination of the current and historical contexts of social policy. Chapters have been purposely chosen to review a varied and interesting selection of topical social policy developments and to set these in a broader context of key trends and debates.
Published in association with the UK Social Policy Association.
Social Policy Review is an annual selection of commissioned articles focusing on developments and debates in social policy in the UK, Europe and internationally. The Review has become recognised as a topical, accessible, well-written and affordable publication and has a substantial readership among social policy teachers, students, researchers and policy makers.
Social Policy Review 13 continues the tradition of providing a different style and approach to policy issues from that found in most academic journals and books. Chapters have been purposely chosen to review a varied and interesting selection of social policy developments in Britain and internationally, and to set current policy developments in a broader context of key trends and debates.
This article explores current thinking about policy learning and transfer, using recent work on the ‘Americanisation’ of UK active labour market policies as a focus of discussion. While it is clear that the UK has learned from the US in certain respects, academic debates about the US–UK policy relationship are marked by accounts of learning and transfer that depend on a highly rational interpretation of these processes. The article reviews current debates in the policy transfer literature and applies a critical view of policy learning and transfer to key accounts of labour market activation policies before moving on to consider how useful the concept of policy transfer really is in an increasingly complex, plural and ‘de-institutionalising’ world.