The thoughts that count - the best of global thought leadership (December 2021)

What will the public services we use look like in the future? The Serco Institute’s monthly digest – The Thoughts That Count – pulls together some of the best thinking on public services policy from across the world.

Public services & policy

The 2019 Conservative manifesto half-time analysis – Institute for Government (UK)

Two years on from the 2019 general election, the IfG finds that while 55% of the Conservative Government’s 2019 manifesto pledges are on track or completed, 41 pledges are at risk of failure, abandonment, delay or suspension. The report also highlights the contradictions in the manifesto, with the Conservatives promising in 2019 to reform social care, improve digital infrastructure and deliver ‘world class’ public services while not raising the three main taxes or borrowing to fund day-to-day spending. Finally, the IfG highlights health, ‘global Britain’ and net zero as the three areas where the Government’s attention is most needed.

How to make a success of county devolution deals – Institute for Government (UK)

Ahead of the much-anticipated levelling up white paper, the IfG calls on the Government to publish a devolution framework to govern ‘county deals’ which would see powers in areas such as transport, housing and skills devolved from central to local government. Other recommendations include greater cross-departmental leadership and greater budgetary flexibility for local leaders.

Taxing Times: Paying more council tax for diminished local services – Centre for Progressive Policy (UK)

While the recent Spending Review gives a funding boost to local government, this will be dependent on local taxes being raised and will not be enough to maintain existing services, leaving communities in the situation where they face higher council taxes for diminished local services. This, the article argues, is especially hard to justify given the regressive and unfair inequalities baked into council tax. Councils will additionally continue to face fiscal pressures, as the ongoing pandemic may stifle economic activity and increase demand on local services, while household incomes are set to shrink in real terms given current high inflation.


mRNA vaccines: a lucky shot? Bruegel Institute (Europe)

This paper concerns the background development of mRNA technology to produce vaccines which have proven highly effective and safe and able to be deployed at large scale. Its findings can be used to better understand how public vaccine research and development policy can best be harnessed to maximise the benefits of mRNA technology.

How COVID-19 and disinformation threaten the United States and Germany Heinrich Böll Stiftung (Europe)

This article draws comparisons between recent surges in Covid-19 infections in Germany and the United States: in both countries, large unvaccinated populations continue to hamper authorities’ attempts to suppress circulation of the virus. This is due at least in part to the prevalence of misinformation, spread in online fora, which have spawned phenomena such as Germany’s Querdenker movement. The article urges Germany and the US to do more to counter the influence of conspiracy theories and aid the people they entrap.

Health & social care

Putting patients first: How integrated care systems can drive better outcomes – Reform (UK)

This event write-up summarises some of the key issues raised at a recent policy roundtable discussion hosted jointly by Reform and Social Enterprise UK. The write-up covers themes such as the importance of integration; putting patients first; subsidiarity; a place-based approach; opportunities for innovation; relationship-led change; and the future of care.

Briefing on the Health and Care Bill: House of Lords second reading – The King’s Fund (UK)

This briefing focuses on Parts 1 and 6 of the Health and Care Bill, which deal with the NHS, its relationship to other parts of the health system, and changes to the cap on social care costs. It sets out a number of recommendations, including for Parliament to encourage local flexibility in local circumstances; to remove or restrict the Health Secretary’s proposed new powers to intervene in local service reconfigurations; to introduce a new obligation to provide regular estimations of the present and future care workforce; and to scrap the regressive change to the social care cap which will leave people with lower assets far worse off.

Unfinished business: practical policies for better care at home  Grattan Institute (Australia)

The vast majority of Australians want to be cared for at home in their old age, yet home care is hard to get, confusing, and can be expensive. The authors acknowledge that Australia’s Federal Government has made “welcome commitments” to address many of the shortcomings identified by the Royal Commission into Aged Care. According to the report, however, the measures do not go far enough. The authors provide a list of recommendations positing how home care could improve in Australia, each of which is underpinned by the need for more money and better design.

Our ageing population – The Health Foundation (UK)

This report finds that while England’s population is ageing, increasing numbers of older people are able to live independent lives. However, older people are also living with more long-term conditions, potentially complicating their care needs. The Health Foundation offers five key insights into the nuanced and complex reality of anticipating future demand for health and social care based on demographic changes.

Waiting Your Turn: Wait Times for Health Care in Canada, 2021 Report – Fraser Institute (Canada)

Waiting for treatment has become a defining characteristic of Canadian health care. In order to document the queues for visits to specialists and for diagnostic and surgical procedures in the country, the Fraser Institute has – for almost three decades – surveyed specialist physicians across 12 specialties and 10 provinces. The results of this year’s survey indicate that despite provincial strategies to reduce wait times and high levels of expenditure, it is clear patients in Canada continue to wait too long to receive medically necessary treatment.

Going it alone: health and Brexit in the UK  Nuffield Trust (UK)

Nearly a year on from the UK’s exit from the single market and customs union, this report examines the impact Brexit has had on the NHS. Key findings include that the loss of free movement from the EEA may exacerbate labour shortages, particularly in social care; industries in the UK medical fields face great uncertainty and greater red tape; the devolved governments are concerned they have lost some of their autonomy over health services; and pledges to keep the NHS ‘off the table’ in trade negotiations mean little without specific commitments on issues such as patent protections.

Employment, skills & economy

The United States’ unusual recovery from pandemic recession: podcast  Brookings Institution (US)

In this podcast, Gian Maria Milesi-Ferretti, senior fellow with the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy, joins David Dollar to discuss his recent article on what he calls a “most unusual recovery” in the US from the pandemic recession. Milesi-Ferretti analyses US GDP compared with G7 countries, and explores salient issues including exports and imports, private and government consumption, and consumer inflation.

European Social Partners Project on Circular Economy and the World of Work  European Trade Union Confederation

The European Social Partners, including ETUC, Business Europe and several others, have since 2019 been conducting a project to investigate how the move to a circular economy, a key pillar of the EU’s net zero ambitions, would impact the European workforce. It finds that 250-700,000 jobs would be created by 2030 in the EU; skills would rise and demand for mid-level qualifications would increase; there are potential health hazards to do with exposure to hazardous substances; and that circular business models will allow businesses to deliver goods and services to match customer expectations and social trends.

Employment in 2030  Brookfield Institute (Canada)

These reports will help the reader gain an insight into regional labour market challenges and recommendations for more worker-centric Labour Market Information across Canada’s regions. The project takes an innovation-based approach to identify new solutions to pressing labour market challenges, as well as ideas to improve existing interventions that would help workers develop the skills identified with occupations projected to grow in demand over the next 10 years.

Inside Jobs: The experience of low-paid homeworkers in Britain today  Reform (UK)

To combat the oft-held assumption that working from home only benefits high- and middle-income workers, this first-of-its-kind report indicates that low-paid homeworkers are just as likely as their higher-paid counterparts to want to continue working from home. They enjoy a range of benefits, such as greater flexibility and autonomy, a better work-life balance and stronger family relationships. Reform suggests that homeworking be maintained as an option for low-paid workers, access to homeworking be expanded and the experience of working from home improved.

Did Pandemic Unemployment Benefits Reduce Employment? Evidence from Early State-Level Expirations in June 2021  National Bureau of Economic Research (US)

In the US, generosity of Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits was expanded during the pandemic, along with groups of workers eligible for benefits. These two programmes were set to expire in September 2021, but 18 states opted out of both in June 2021. Using Population Survey Data, the study estimates that the flow of unemployment workers into employment increased by around two-thirds following early termination. The report also found that early termination reduced the share of households that no difficulty meeting expenses by 5%.

Justice & immigration

Prison Populations Continue To Rise In Many Parts Of The World  Institute for Crime and Justice Policy Research (UK)

This new report by the ICPR finds that prison populations, now totalling 11.5 million worldwide, is rising in many parts of the world: South America’s inmates have tripled in number since 2000, while Southeast Asia’s prison population has more than doubled. The US remains the country in the world with the highest number of prisoners per 100,000 (629), with Rwanda second at 580.

Earning trust: Improving criminal justice outcomes for ethnic minorities  Social Market Foundation (UK)

Ethnic minorities remain overrepresented in Britain’s criminal justice system, which the Social Market Foundation attributes to a lack of trust, both in ethnic minority individuals’ distrust of criminal justice but the system’s distrust of communities and ethnic minorities themselves. To remedy some of the worsening disparities, the SMF recommends that the Government increase access to out of court disposals; that greater efforts be made to recruit ethnic minority magistrates and judges; that detention of young ethnic minorities be reduced; and that legal advice to ethnic minority defendants be reviewed.

Getting Schooled: The Role of Universities in Attracting Immigrant Entrepreneurs Cato Institute (US)

The authors note how immigrants play a vital role in innovation activities and entrepreneurship. The report asks: what are the pathways that high-skilled immigrants take to arrive in the US, and how has the importance of these pathways changed over time? What are the important institutions that serve as gatekeepers for high-skilled immigrants, and do they affect the type of immigrant founders that come to the US? Do certain parts of the benefit disproportionately from high-skilled immigration, and if so, what are some factors that contribute to these benefits? These questions have important implications for firms and universities that recruit talent from abroad and for the communities that hope to promote vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems. 

A Humane and Sensible Approach to the Immigration Crisis  Royal United Services Institute (UK)

Following a sharp increase in 2021 of migrants attempting to cross the English Channel in boats, the RUSI argues for a ‘sensible and humane’ approach to migration in a departure from the Government’s heavy-handed policy. Such an approach would entail greater understanding of the conditions pushing migrants to leave their homes, of the opportunity to plug labour shortages caused by Brexit and Covid-19, and expanding legal avenues to seek asylum in the UK without reaching British shores.


Strategic Compass: New bearings for EU security and defence?  European Union Institute for Security Studies

The Strategic Compass is a policy document set to make strengthened security and defence proposals for the EU during the period 2025-30. Ahead of its approval scheduled for March 2022, the EUISS provides policy recommendations and considerations, including the results of an EUISS questionnaire of government-affiliated think tanks and research organisations.

UK Strategic Command’s Strategy: Between Responsibility and Authority  Royal United Services Institute (UK)

The RUSI offers analysis of UK Strategic Command’s recently published strategy to deliver the integration promised by the earlier Integrated Review and Defence Command Paper. However, this strategy, argues the RUSI, is not a plan for delivering integration, and urges for rhetoric and ambition to be turned swiftly into programmes and projects to deliver concrete change before the next likely review in 2024/5.

Dealing with the Neighbours: The case for an affiliate membership of the European Union and a new Security Council  European Policy Centre

The European Policy Centre makes the case for a new ‘affiliate’ membership of the European Union, open to countries such as the UK wishing to enjoy closer access to EU institutions but to remain exempt from Europe’s ‘ever closer union’. This would be supported by a European Security Council drawing together EU member and affiliate states as well as NATO allies Canada and the US in a common strategic operation to defend Western interests and security.

Keeping the Defense Industrial Base Afloat During COVID-19  RAND Corporation (US)

Concerns about the financial solvency of the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) and the stability of supply chains that are key to national security prompted the US government and Department of Defense to make policy changes and investments to support the DIB during the pandemic. The health of small businesses was of particular concern because these companies can have limited visibility in supply chains and are often more vulnerable to financial disruptions. In this exploratory analysis, the authors summarise investments in DIB businesses that received assistance during the early months of the pandemic.

Is the European Peace Facility really about peace?  Centre for European Reform

The European Peace Facility (EPF) is a new fund to make the EU a stronger military actor, enabling it to ‘learn the language of power’ and act more assertively in overseas crises in the face of rising tensions with rivals and Washington’s declining inclination to defend Europe. This piece urges European policymakers not to neglect the EU’s soft power and peace-making influence, and to use the EPF in a way which contributes to global peace and security.


The Energy Implications of Transit-Oriented Transport for Riyadh in 2030  King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KSA)

This short two-page briefing finds that, if Riyadh’s population reaches 8.3 million by 2030 as is projected, 2016 levels of car use per capita would result in fuel consumption of 31.9 million litres per day. However, if public transport were to account for 30% of journeys, 9.6 million litres of fuel per day would be cut.


Squeezed Out  New Economics Foundation (UK)

Disrupted labour markets and supply chains have brought about a rise in housebuilding costs, which stand to derail efforts to expand social and affordable housing supply. Analysis by NEF covering a number of local authorities in England finds that social and affordable housing is at risk from increasing build costs, with three councils set to see no social and affordable housing delivered at all.

Have we missed something interesting? Let us know by getting in touch through

Related articles

Marching Towards Inclusivity: Bridging the Gap Between the Armed Forces and Society

1st March 2024

The thoughts that count - the best of global thought leadership (October 2023)

3rd November 2023

Saudi Residents Show Support For Green Ambitions As Part Of Vision 2030 Plans

24th October 2023