22nd November 2026
Ed Miliband’s resignation as Prime Minister, following the rejection of his controversial land value tax reforms to replace the council tax, brings to an end the ‘Miliband era’. It was greeted with jubilation in many parts of southern England, with chants of ‘Eddie, Eddie, Eddie, out, out, out!’ echoing round the wine bars, luxury car dealerships and estate agents of Surrey.
In assessing Miliband’s time as leader, it is important to remember the situation eleven and a half years ago when he first came to power. Having won a narrow majority in 2015 against an exhausted and discredited Conservative/Liberal coalition, he took over a country in seemingly permanent economic decline, and with few allies for his radical vision even amongst his own Cabinet.
Indeed the first three years of the Miliband government saw Labour slump into third place in the polls, behind both the Conservatives and the UK Independence Party. His early economic reforms led to a higher level of inflation that Britain had experienced in decades, and he was forced to scale back many of his plans after threats of an ‘investor strike’ from the powerful financial sector. Some in his Cabinet even urged him to step aside in favour of former leader Tony Blair.
Miliband’s decision to oppose the war on Iran is often cited as a turning point in his first term. Skilfully taking advantage of the diplomatic opportunity to broker a peace deal, he drew a sharp contrast with the pro-war right wing parties, which badly misjudged the public mood with their bloodthirsty rhetoric. The decision of James Murdoch to close the loss-making Sun and Times newspapers later that year, and the curbs on the Daily Mail imposed by the 2016 Press Freedom Act drastically weakened the right wing press’ criticisms of Miliband’s government, and the split between the Tories and UKIP proved catastrophic for the electoral fortunes of the Right.
But it was not just the weakness of his opponents which led to the Miliband landslide of 2020. With unemployment falling sharply, many workers benefiting from higher real wages due to the expansion of the living wage, the building boom of new council and co-operative homes cutting the cost of housing, and new local banks supporting the development of small businesses, many in the ‘squeezed middle’ felt less squeezed by the end of the decade.
It was in his second term that Miliband gained a reputation for the ruthless way that he went about destroying the pillars of the right wing establishment. The number of buy to let landlords had already started to fall, as more people were able to buy, rent from the council or join a co-operative to get their home. Landlords complained about tough new regulations and falling levels of housing benefit payments. In the ground-breaking Budget of 2021, punitive new taxes on multiple home ownership effectively made buy to let economically unviable.
With billions flowing to the Treasury from the renewable energy boom, vindicating Miliband’s investment in green industries, he was able to turn his attention to the ‘Enemy Within’ of the City of London. His Financial Transactions Tax, new regulatory regime and work with other governments to crack down on tax havens and speculation were bitterly opposed by the financial sector and their remaining allies.
Overall, the collapse of the City of London caused by Miliband’s war on predatory capitalism affected very few people. Most people, particularly in the Midlands and North, benefited from the rising share of national income that went to wages rather than profits, and the explicit focus on full employment as the main goal of economic policy.
It is important to remember, however, that the PM who came to power promising ‘One Nation’ presided over decline of towns in the Home Counties dependent on the City of London. The brutal police response to the notorious ‘stockbroker riots’ of 2023 in Beaconsfield and Haslemere reinforced the notion of a divided Britain with a prosperous North and impoverished South.
As Miliband approached his tenth anniversary in power, he became increasingly dogmatic and unwilling to compromise. The mutualisation of the railways failed to improve the quality of service from the old days of Virgin Trains, and he was embroiled in scandal after the arrest of several members of the ‘Primrose Hill set’ over price fixing in the solar power industry.
Despite the return of Nick Clegg from the European Commission to lead the new ‘Progressive Conservative’ party and the decline of UKIP, Miliband was easily re-elected for a third term in office in 2025. At that time, little attention was paid to the section in the Labour manifesto about the need to reform the council tax system. How ironic that, just like another long serving Prime Minister, it would be local government finance that brought an end to his career.
Labour has just announced what they are calling a ‘radical shift’ to welfare payments. They want ‘a return to the contributory principles of Beveridge’, where what you get out of the welfare state should be based on what you put in. This is possibly not what lefties had in mind when urging Labour to rediscover the ‘Spirit of 45′, but let’s explore further what this might mean.
Labour haven’t yet explained what ‘the contributory principle’ would mean in practice, though the IPPR think tank have previously suggested ‘National Salary Insurance’, where people who have paid taxes before becoming unemployed would be entitled to receive interest free loans from the government, which they pay back when they get a job.
The idea behind ‘the contributory principle’ where ‘you get out what you put in’ sees the welfare state as a kind of insurance system. It is intended to appeal to people who, in Labour minister Liam Byrne’s words, ‘feel like they put an awful lot more in than they get back’. It appears that by ‘contribution’, Labour means ‘pay national insurance’. In practice, this means a welfare system which provides greater financial support for men, older people and able bodied people, and less support for women, young people and disabled people (as the former are all much more likely to have paid national insurance before needing support from the welfare state).
This seems to me to be a very limited view of what it means to ‘contribute’ to society. It doesn’t recognise parents who work hard to give their children the best start in life, people who spend their time caring for others rather than in paid employment, or the person who is too sick or disabled to hold down a job. It is not obviously ‘fair’, for example, that a millionaire ex-banker who loses their job should be deemed to have contributed more and receive more help from the state than someone who doesn’t work because they are caring for their severely disabled children.
Even on the narrow measure of ‘contribution to government revenues’, it is hard to see why the only measure should be national insurance payments. To take just one example from one of the best parts of the modern welfare state, someone with severe mental health problems who attends a peer support group and helps others to manage their condition might end up saving the taxpayer tens of thousands in reduced social care costs through their contribution to the wellbeing of others, even if they’ve never paid a penny in national insurance.
So as Labour develops their ideas about ‘contributory welfare’, rather than being transactional and focused on one particular measure, it should recognise all the different ways in which people contribute.
Another concern about ‘the contributory principle’ as it is currently described is that it aims to answer the question ‘how can we identify who the contributors are, so as to be able to pay them more in welfare payments than the non-contributors?’ Instead, I think that ‘contributory welfare’ should be about making changes to the system so as to answer the question ‘how do we enable people to contribute more to society, and to live with dignity?’
Answering that question necessarily goes beyond the issue of welfare payments and helps to shape decisions about spending priorities across a much wider range of areas, from support for childcare, primary and secondary education, job creation and so on. Rather than dividing people into those who contribute and those who do not, it recognises that we all have the potential, with help at the right times, to contribute more and help each other. For some, that support comes from universal services such as primary and secondary education. For others, it might mean financial help when out of work, alongside advice to help get a job. For others still, it might involve prompt, targeted interventions such as reducing domestic abuse by working with perpetrators.
Rather than looking back to try to recreate an insurance system from the 1940s, I think there is a real opportunity here. The definition of what ‘contribution to society’ should mean is, to paraphrase Ed Miliband, too important to be left to politicians and people who work for think tanks. Labour could bring together people from all walks of life to discuss and come up with proposals about the different ways in which people in modern Britain contribute to society, and come up with a report what kinds of support they need in order to be able to contribute more.
Dan Hodges attacks “the ideologues of Left and Right” who are “doing their damnedest to pull defeat from the jaws of victory”, by insisting on pure dogma instead of thinking about what the electorate may want.
Reading his piece, I was reminded of one particular group of ideologues.
These people have set out what they call, with all due modesty, “a programme for national renewal”. Like Liam Fox, they think that we currently spend too much money on the NHS. In particular, they have identified that we have far too many hospitals and ought to close some.
They are also keen to tackle the pressing issue of old people keeping their home warm in winter, and the problem of too many pensioners leaving their homes and travelling around on public transport. They therefore plan to means test the winter fuel allowance and remove free bus passes from most pensioners. They’ve also noticed that the government is doing too much to protect pensioners from rising inflation, and that there are too many incentives for people to save money rather than getting into debt. So they’ll end the ‘triple lock’ which guarantees that the state pension won’t wither away, cap ISAs and tax savers more heavily.
They think that the government is spending too much on fighting crime, and too much on educating our children, and so propose to ‘hold down overall public services programme budgets’.
They plan ‘a large-scale broad tax increase’ to squeeze the incomes of people who are struggling to get by, and to keep every single welfare cut implemented by the Tories and reduce the welfare budget still further.
Who are these ideologues? Our old fiscally conservative friends from ‘In the Black Labour’.
Two years on from their original pamphlet, they’ve managed to come up with a policy platform which makes Labour’s 1983 ‘suicide note’ manifesto look like the Beveridge Report.
They refer to this approach as ‘hard realism’, taking ‘tough choices’ and so on. They also worry that opposition from ‘vested interests’, ranging from pensioners’ groups to the Labour Party, would prevent them from being able to take this message to the British people.
It’s easy to take pot shots, and they deserve credit for setting out their stall. But there is nothing particularly ‘hard’ or ‘realistic’ about putting together a wishlist of policy priorities, entirely unconnected from any sense of what is remotely politically feasible. And while it is indeed ‘tough’ to advocate sharp reductions to the living standards of elderly people, I’m not sure that many people would regard being ‘tough on grannies’ as something to boast about.
In opposition, it is all the more important to avoid sweeping pledges which threaten the services which people support most strongly. Promises from politicians are treated with extreme skepticism, and fears are magnified. Far from securing Labour’s credentials as a party prepared to take tough decisions, cutting the NHS and squeezing pensioners would reinforce the notion of a bunch of politicians who are out of touch and who don’t get how tough it is in the real world.
The problem with ‘In the Black Labour’ is not that it will antagonise vested interests who are unprepared to take the hard decisions needed for national renewal. It’s that they’ve fallen into the trap of believing that ideological radicalism is the route to disaster for their opponents, but the route to success for themselves. This is a trap which catches centrist technocrats just as easily as socialist revolutionaries or right-wing Thatcherites.
My former boss Andrew Smith, MP for Oxford East, often spoke about the importance of good local campaigning. The aim of this, he argued, was to build strong relationships with the electorate, so that whatever was happening at Westminster or in the newspapers didn’t influence how people chose to vote. Rather than remote politicians having their views filtered through the media to the electorate, this is about local politicians and people working together, while the remote media chatter away in the background.
This isn’t a particularly new insight, but the value of this approach can be seen by the success of the Liberal Democrats in winning the by-election in Eastleigh. While the hundreds of volunteers, thousands of contacts and hundreds of thousands of leaflets over the past three weeks played their part; they actually won the election months ago, when they built their local organisation, made sure that people had a positive view of their local work, gathered the data and set up their delivery networks.
I think the key lessons for Labour from this by-election are not about whether “One Nation Labour” is reaching “southern voters”, or whether Labour needs to adopt policy x, y or z. Instead, the Eastleigh result poses two questions which Labour need to consider:
1. Why did Labour fail, in so many of the seats that we held between 1997 and 2010, to build the kind of local organisation which the Lib Dems have in Eastleigh?
2. How can Labour ensure by the time of the next election they have this level of local organisation in at least, say, 340 constituencies?
Over the past few years, as trust in politicians and politics has fallen, the added value of local campaigning and effective incumbency has risen. Parties which campaign all year round and mobilise volunteers well before an election beat those which wait until the last minute, whatever the national political context.
The value of ‘early intervention’, identifying and sorting out problems early and enabling people to develop their skills and talents, is just as evident in political campaigning as it is in public services. The Tories matched the Lib Dems leaflet for leaflet, door knock for door knock during the short campaign period. But six months, 1 year, 2 years ago, the Lib Dems were active and the other parties weren’t.
Arguably, Labour should have asked its volunteers not to head to Eastleigh, where the impact of their valiant efforts was always going to be minimal, but to Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Kent and other areas which have county council elections in a couple of months.
There’s a key challenge for local councillors here, as well. Voters in Eastleigh generally agreed that the local council was doing a good job, and that the credit for this should go to the Lib Dems. I wonder how many Labour-run authorities are places where people would spontaneously say that their council was doing a good job, let alone attribute this to the Labour Party? That should be a key goal for every Labour councillor.
Getting as many county councillors elected as possible in May is much more important for Labour than their share of the vote in Eastleigh, especially if those councillors are signed up and committed to talking to voters once they are elected, organising locally and building support well ahead of the next General Election. As Eastleigh shows, it is never too early to start getting ready for the next election.
Kate Green, Labour MP and former CEO of Child Poverty Action Group, has forgotten more about social security than I’ll ever know. Her defence of Labour’s spending on social security is well worth a read:
Prior to the recession, expenditure had remained pretty constant, falling slightly from 11% of GDP in 1997/08 to 10.9% in 2007/08. But, more importantly, we were spending more on Labour priorities – cutting child and pensioner poverty – and less on the costs of unemployment: spending on children had increased from 1.3 to 1.9% of GDP, spending on pensioners increased from 5.7 to 5.8% of GDP, while spending on working age benefits (including JSA and Working Tax Credit) decreased from 3.9 to 3.2%. As a result, over that period, child poverty fell by 500,000 and pensioner poverty by 200,000.
Sounds great, right? Spending less on working age benefits as a result of falling unemployment, and using the resources freed up in order to reduce poverty amongst children and pensioners. But there’s just something which troubles me about this argument.
What Kate didn’t mention was that reduced spending on working age benefits led to a rise in poverty amongst working age adults. Their rate of poverty increased throughout the decade that Labour was in power, reaching 20% in 2009/10, and they were likely to be in deeper poverty than other age groups. So not such a success.
Then I looked at the different policies which have been advocated by Labour and lefties in order to ‘cut the benefits bill’. I read the Resolution Foundation report on the living wage, a terrific piece of work about a fantastic policy. I found that the living wage would save up to £2bn in reduced social security payments – or ‘a tiny proportion of the overall welfare budget’ as we call that sum of money when referring to the similar amounts lost in fraud and error. In addition, far from the living wage replacing the need for benefits and tax credits, it relies on them – if benefits go down, the amount needed for the living wage goes up.
A jobs guarantee for long term unemployed people? It would reduce the amount spent on unemployment benefits, but it has a net cost to the taxpayer. Reducing housing benefit by building more homes involves the government borrowing tens of billions more, and may involve stuffing the mouths of buy to let landlords with gold. Increasing employment rates and productivity through universal childcare could be funded by equalising pension tax relief, but it still involves higher spending by the state.
For all our economic problems, we live in a country where we collectively have the means to ensure that everyone lives in a decent home, has the opportunity to work and earn enough to live on, where the costs of care are made more affordable for those that need them most, and where people unable to work are able to live with dignity. The policies which are currently being considered by Labour and the left have the potential to take a big stride towards creating this society.
In the long term, I am absolutely on board with the argument that such a society would enable everyone to contribute more and therefore be enormously more productive and better off. But in the short to medium term, getting from here to there involves spending more, not less, on social security.
It’s a tough argument, but I think we need to persuade people that creating this kind of society is something worth spending the money on, rather than competing with the government about who’s got the best ideas for cutting the benefits bill.
The main way that the Tories justified their rancid Welfare Uprating Bill is by claiming that ‘benefits shouldn’t rise faster than earnings’. They obviously think it is the most powerful part of their argument. So what if there were a simple, progressive way of disarming this argument?
Peter Kenway and Tom MacInnes have, for many years, written the annual report on Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion, and suggest that the principle about how benefits are uprated is one that both the Labour Party and anti-poverty campaigners should want to revisit.
Osborne’s underlying principle is the correct one: out-of-work benefits and in-work tax credits should move in line with some suitable measure of earnings not prices. Technically, this is the right principle because it is the only one that over the long term – and benefit uprating is very much something that should be judged over the long term – preserves the necessary proportions, both between earnings and benefits, but also between the money available (from taxes on earnings) and the total value of those benefits which need to be funded.
Agreeing with George Osborne’s underlying principle?!? Surely, by definition, a grotesque attack on the poor?
Except that linking benefits to earnings, rather than inflation, would have actually been better for people on lower incomes over the past ten years (or any other long term measure that you care to consider). As MacInnes and Kenway put it, ‘Taking the last decade as a whole, rather than the five year horizon the Chancellor prefers, earnings rose by 36% while prices rose by 30% (CPI). Frankly, if earnings continue to rise more slowly than inflation then we have bigger problems than benefit uprating to worry about.’
They conclude that ‘a favourable principle, stated by a Conservative Chancellor, is an opportunity not to be missed. Instead of mere outright opposition, the principle of linking benefits to earnings should be extolled at every opportunity, with an eye to the years beyond 2014 and 2015 about which something could still be done’.
With the current link to inflation which we’ve all been trying to defend, during times of growth benefits fall further and further behind earnings, increasing inequality. Then during hard times, benefits are meant to grow faster than earnings, providing an opportunity for the Right to pit people on low incomes against each other and pass populist attacks as they did this week.
I think that the level of benefits need to be revisited anyway to enable people to live with dignity (as MacInnes and Kenway point out, the short term consequences of linking to earnings are very tough for people on low incomes). But as a long term principle, uprating benefits with earnings rather than inflation would be more redistributive and take away one of the Tories’ biggest sticks.
The comedians at Conservative Home recently described Iain Duncan Smith as ‘a latter-day Wilberforce’, comparing his work on welfare reform to the abolition of slavery.
This got me thinking – what if Wilberforce had adopted the approach to tackling slavery which this current government has adopted to tackling poverty?
Here is the story of Iain Duncan Wilberforce, the man who tried to end slavery:
Iain Duncan Wilberforce (24 August 1759 – 29 July 1833) was an English politician, philanthropist, and founder of the Centre for Slavery Justice (CSJ). A native of Essex, he began his political career in 1780, eventually becoming the independent Member of Parliament for Chingford (1784–1812). In 1780, he underwent a conversion experience and became an evangelical Christian, which resulted in major changes to his lifestyle and a lifelong concern for reform.
Wilberforce was convinced of the importance of religion, morality and education. His underlying conservatism led him to support politically and socially repressive legislation, and resulted in criticism that he was ignoring injustices at home while campaigning for the enslaved abroad.
In 1781, Wilberforce founded the Centre for Slavery Justice (CSJ). Through his work with the CSJ, he became convinced that traditional anti-slavery campaigning had an excessively narrow focus on ending the slave trade and making slavery illegal, an approach which Wilberforce dubbed ‘freedom plus a shilling’.
Instead, Wilberforce and the CSJ identified five Pathways to Slavery – Family Breakdown, Economic Dependency, Educational Failure, Addiction and Debt. He argued that slavery could not be addressed without a greater focus on the moral character of the slaves, as opposed to what he and his supporters dubbed the ‘politically correct, liberal elitist’ focus on slave owners.
In December 1783, William Pitt the Younger appointed Wilberforce as Secretary of State in his Coalition government, in order to put his ideas into action. Wilberforce published reports which claimed that slavery had increased by ‘three hundred billion drillion’ under the previous government (though independent fact checkers struggled to find the evidence on which these figures were based), and broadened the official government definition of slavery to reflect his concern with family breakdown and the dependency culture.
In a speech at a workhouse in South East London, Wilberforce argued that, “Across the Empire, there are children living in circumstances that simply cannot be captured by assessing whether their parents are slaves or free. There are many factors that impact on a child’s wellbeing and ability to succeed in life… and measuring slavery alone does little to represent the experience of those in pauperism”.
Asserting that ‘work is the best route out of slavery’, Wilberforce set out ambitious plans to ‘make slavery pay’, as well as Work Capability Assessments and Mandatory Work Activities to require paupers and the sick to undertake unpaid work in exchange for receiving the services provided by the workhouses. Wilberforce’s greatest achievement was the Welfare Reform Act of 1791, dubbed the ‘Strivers not Slaves or Skivers’ Act in the popular press.
Despite official government statistics claiming that these measures reduced the extent of slavery by ‘six hundred billion million drillion quadrillion’ over the following three years, the slave trade continued to flourish throughout Wilberforce’s time in office, much to the bemusement of Wilberforce and his key adviser Lord Freud. In later years, Wilberforce also came under criticism from some younger Conservatives, who campaigned for the official government definition of slavery to be extended to those who had to pay the new income tax.
In 1834, the House of Lords passed the Slavery Abolition Act, which abolished slavery in most of the British Empire from August 1834. This marked a rejection of the gradualist application favoured by Wilberforce, Freud and the CSJ, but proved to be far more effective than Wilberforce’s reforms had been.
The story of Iain Duncan Wilberforce and his role in the anti-slavery movement has mostly been forgotten today. But it is an important reminder of what can be achieved by a conservative politician who combines personal commitment to a cause with a determination to set aside or make up the evidence to support his own prejudices and priorities.
YouGov recently carried out a different kind of opinion poll. Instead of asking people whether they supported or opposed particular policies, they offered people the choice of different policies, and asked them to choose which they thought mattered more. Here are some of the results:
The policy which ‘won’ every time it was tested against any other was ‘Cracking down on companies that use accounting ploys to avoid paying profits tax in Britain’.
People backed a crackdown on tax dodging companies over a crackdown on welfare cheats by 52% to 39%.
Reducing unemployment was seen as more important than reducing inflation by 60% to 24%.
Improving the NHS was seen as more important than improving schools by 50% to 37%.
People were equally split on whether they favoured tougher sentences for criminals or tougher regulations on banks.
People preferred ending all immigration to leaving the European Union, but preferred cutting overseas aid to ending immigration.
Cutting overseas aid was seen as a higher priority than improving the NHS by 56% to 36%, but cracking down on tax dodging companies was seen as more important than cutting overseas aid by 57% to 34%.
The Ministry of Justice does ‘not propose to devote these limited public funds to less important cases on the basis that they could indirectly lead to more serious consequences for that person’ said Lord McNally, Justice Minister in the House of Lords, as he piloted the Legal Aid Bill through the House earlier this year.
‘Let’s not waste money on minor problems when we could spend more once they’ve become extremely serious’ doesn’t sound like a promising mantra by which to reduce public spending, but is the default option for a department forced to make short-term spending cuts with little room for manoeuvre. Meeting this year’s budget target is the only target (and is well-rewarded), irrespective of the impact on your own, or others’ budgets in years to come.
These powerful public spending incentives to act for the short term in government are a significant barrier to the kind of investment in prevention which would transform public services. In a report published today the Early Action Task Force estimate as much as 40% of public spending goes on dealing with problems that could have been tackled earlier. Only 20% goes on early, preventative action. The Task Force, chaired by Community Links’ David Robinson spans the sectors, a disparate group united in their shock at the wasted potential these figures represent.
Programmes involving significant long term investment are exceptions proving the rule. Take the Olympics, a 15 year commitment honoured and delivered by successive governments and local administrations. They couldn’t have happened any other way, and indeed little else is happening that way.
Youth offending costs the nation just as much as the Olympic games every year,. £11bn. Successive short term programmes have shown how the costs, social and financial, could be significantly reduced with earlier action yet year after year the overwhelming majority of the budget is spent on imprisonment, less than 10% is invested in prevention. Here is just one challenge that can only be met with long term collaboration and sustained commitment. There are many more.
Ed Balls recognised this in his party conference speech earlier this year when he said that an incoming Labour government would not “duck the hard long-term issues we know we haven’t properly faced up to and which transcend parties and parliaments and where we badly need a cross-party consensus.’
He proposed ‘… a long-term plan to support the most vulnerable in our society – looked-after children and adults needing social care.’ The underlying rationale he said ‘is not just about policy, but about the kind of country we want to be and the way we do our politics.’
Of course this option will always look more attractive from the opposition benches than it will from No 11 whoever occupies those seats but the Canadian experience of sustained cross-party support for a consistent approach to criminal justice shows that it is neither naïve nor impractical for the major parties in a parliamentary democracy to collaborate on the kind of agenda that cries out for sustained commitment to long-term goals and strategies.
We could do better earlier. This is a practical proposition but it calls for a different kind of politics, one that values sustainable solutions above short term goals, and a different kind of leadership, one that builds on common sense, in opposition and in government. Understand this and grip the challenge and in the coming years there will be more to make us proud than one glorious summer.
The government published figures for their Work Programme, designed to help unemployed people to find work. Here are five thoughts on the figures:
1. Performance has been way below the minimum threshold… The Guardian is reporting that 3.5% of people have got jobs lasting at least six months, against a minimum performance target of 5.5%. But today’s figures cover a fourteen month period. So the like for like comparison is that just 2.3% of people have got long term jobs, less than half the minimum performance level.
2. …and the Work Programme has been especially ineffective at helping disabled people. The proportion of people in receipt of Employment Support Allowance who have been helped by the Work Programme to find long term work is 0.93%, according to analysis by the Social Market Foundation. Scope’s analysis found that out of 79,000 Employment and Support Allowance claimants, only 1,000 have been in work for six months.
3. As predicted, workfare doesn’t work. One element of the Work Programme which government ministers have been keen to talk up is about forcing people to participate in ‘workfare’ schemes, where their benefits are conditional on them doing work. It’s worth remembering that this is only one element of the Work Programme, and that many of the participants would either have got jobs without any assistance, or benefited from help with CVs, interview practice, finding out about job opportunities and other sorts of support which providers offered. The number who got paid work as a result of workfare must, therefore, have been absolutely minimal.
4. The fact that none of the providers did well shows that the Work Programme is fundamentally flawed. The Work Programme was designed to give providers the flexibility to do whatever they thought would be effective in supporting people into work, rather than government prescribing one single approach. The fact that none of the providers, private or voluntary, were able to meet the minimum performance targets shows that there is something fundamentally wrong with the programme which goes beyond any individual organisation.
5. But some providers did do better than others. It should come as no surprise to anyone that a4e performed particularly badly in helping people into work. Of the four areas where they were prime contractors, they were top performers in precisely none.
In contrast, Ingeus are prime contractors in six regions, and in every single region, they helped more people into work than the other providers working in the same region.
What’s interesting about this is that Ingeus pay their Employment Advisers substantially more than most other providers, with the aim of recruiting highly skilled people who are able to offer personalised support to help people into work.
This isn’t a magic solution which can overcome all the flaws of the Work Programme, but it is an interesting piece of evidence which is worth remembering the next time you see a public service reformer publish yet another pamphlet calling for public service pay to be held down and asserting that changing structures will lead to better outcomes.
NEWS ARTICLES ARCHIVE