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

Public policy & public services

Revenue, capital, prevention: A new public spending framework for the future – Demos (UK)

Demos makes the case for Preventative Departmental Expenditure Limits (PDEL), which would classify and earmark funding for preventative investment and introduce long-termism to public spending, rather than the present, reactive model of intervention once public services have reached crisis point.

Byte-Sized Progress: Assessing Digital Transformation in the Government of Canada – The Dais (Canada)

Canadians continue to endure long wait times for a number of digital government services, from passport applications to tax and benefit claims, even as the private sector forges ahead in its digital transformation. This report evaluates digital transformation in Canadian government services through examining digital culture, skills and access, seeks to understand the factors which have impeded Canada’s progress, and makes recommendations for enhancing digital maturity across government functions.

Reimagining Government for the 21st Century – Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (UK)

Technology, argues the TBI, is the ‘single biggest force changing the world today’, whose impact on the world will be just as sweeping as the Industrial Revolution. Politics and government are, the think tank says, too slow to react, and as such the briefing calls for a 21st-century ‘strategic state’, one which is characterised by three attributes: a government open to deep partnership with the private sector to boost innovation; improved service delivery and more direct citizen engagement; and more data-driven and efficient decision-making, with reduced bureaucracy and costs.

Reviewing the Trade and Cooperation Agreement: potential paths – UK in a Changing Europe (UK)

Among the provisions of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) in force since the beginning of 2021, the UK and the EU are set to review the deal in 2026 ‘and every five years thereafter’. With many on the UK side hoping that this review will deliver significant changes to the relationship with Brussels, this UKICE report examines the TCA’s provisions, explores what might or might not be reasonably expected to be achieved in the review, and proposes three models which the review could follow.

Submission to the Inquiry into Accountability in Consulting – McKell Institute (Australia)

The past decade has seen Australia become the most dependent country on external consultants for government work in the developed world. Total contract value at only six consulting firms grew 545 per cent between 2013 and 2022. This submission contends that the rise in outsourcing has had numerous negative effects on the capacity of the Australia Public Service (APS), on public administration more broadly, and has come at a considerable cost to taxpayers.

A European Strategy for Labour – Centre for European Reform (Europe)

This briefing encourages the UK to collaborate more tightly with the EU if Labour comes to power. Labour need to set out what they want to achieve in terms of a reset with Europe, ideally with some vision about the kind of country the UK aspires to be. Within the UK, Labour should re-establish a European secretariat in the Cabinet Office, to co-ordinate the EU policies of the different ministries. A new unit should monitor EU legislation and take a view on which new rules the UK should mimic. Labour should commit to adopting new EU business rules unless there is a reason not to. Such a default position would be good for business and help to reassure the EU that the UK was not intending to undermine its ‘level playing field’.

Economy, fiscal policy & industrial strategy

This will be the biggest tax-raising parliament on record – Institute for Fiscal Studies (UK)

The IFS calculates that this UK Parliament is on track to have implemented over £100bn in tax rises since 2019, or the equivalent of £3,500 per household, making it the biggest tax-raising Parliament on record – taxes are set to account for 37% of GDP, and the Government currently raises more in tax revenue as a percentage of national income than at any point since the post-Second World War years.

Fairer taxes, smarter spending: A recipe for sustainable growth – IPPR (UK)

This report argues that, despite tax levels rising to record levels in recent years, the Government is actually in dire need of higher tax revenues to tackle challenges such as climate change, population ageing, fixing public infrastructure, and adequately staffing the British education and health systems. The IPPR makes a case for fairer taxation, and challenges the notion that higher taxes are unpopular among the public, arguing instead that voters support high taxes if this is linked to spending on public services.

Priming the Innovation System – Center for Strategic & International Studies (USA)

To remain competitive and ahead of its rivals, the US needs a technology strategy that reflects new realities, learns from the past, and is committed for the long term. The CHIPS and Science Act, passed in 2022, is a good start, but to continue the tradition of US policies supporting science, technology and innovation, policymakers will need to learn from the past and maintain a sustained policy commitment.

Ready for change – Resolution Foundation (UK)

“Britain’s productivity shortfall is its foundational economic problem. Debate about this gap and how to fix it typically focus on raising productivity of existing firms, via two routes. First, innovation: investment, R&D and patenting as ways to inject new ideas into pre-existing firms. Second, diffusion: the cascading of those new technologies and improved management practices as a way for less productive firms to catch up with the best. Both processes are important, but something else has been largely forgotten: the role of economic change. The contribution of this paper is to put dynamism, reallocation and change back into discussions about UK economic policy.”

The investment gap: the UK's efforts to replace the European Investment Bank – UK in a Changing Europe (UK)

UKICE explores how leaving the EU and losing access to funding from the European Investment Bank has impacted the UK’s development finance landscape, outlining the role that the European Investment Bank played in funding infrastructure in the UK prior to 2020 and exploring how the UK Government has endeavoured to replace some of this funding since departing the bloc.

Pulling all the levers – Trade Unions Congress (UK)

Industrial strategy has come back into favour across much of the industrialised world: a prime example is the Inflation Reduction Act in the US, which is pouring billions of dollars into public investment, cutting carbon emissions, creating jobs and US industrial activity. Similar policies are being implemented in China and Europe, and many economists, green groups, unions and more are calling for similar measures in the UK. This TUC report lays out a plan for a successful net zero industrial strategy in Britain.

Reforming inheritance tax – Institute for Fiscal Studies (UK)

The IFS sets out a number of issues with the British inheritance tax system, finding that the current cost of abolishing the tax would be £7bn and that this would chiefly benefit very wealthy households (with 90% of estates currently not paying inheritance tax and therefore not directly affected by any reforms).

Profit-Price Inflation: Theory, International Evidence, and Policy Implications – Australia Institute (Australia)

New research shows that corporate profits in Australia, despite recent moderation, remain well above historic norms, and must fall further in order to allow a rebuilding of real wages in Australia that have been badly damaged by recent inflation. Wages will thus have to grow significantly faster than inflation for a sustained period of time to recoup those losses.

The State of the European Union speech must address the return of economic policy trade-offs – Bruegel (Europe)

On 13 September, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivered her last State of the Union (SOTEU) speech. The next Commission and European Parliament will face four immediate challenges: the risk of entrenched stagflation, the looming prospects of financial (and real) fragmentation, the breakdown of the consensus on the green transition and the increasing pressure on competitiveness. Striking the right balance between preserving openness and guaranteeing essential supplies will be vital for the future economic wellbeing of Europe and for its role in global governance.

Levelling up

Parallel lives: Regionally rebalancing wealth, power and opportunity – IPPR (UK)

The IPPR calls for the levelling up of the UK’s regions to be made a priority – reducing regional inequalities, the think tank contends, would see life chances redistributed more fairly across Britain and the full economic potential of its regions realised. This will mean a fundamental rethink of the regional distribution of economic and democratic power in the UK. The IPPR’s research highlights three key areas to be prioritised in levelling up: the distribution of wealth, power and opportunity.

Unleashing the potential of the UK's cities – RSA (UK)

“A great many of the UK’s great cities are hives of activity, hubs of culture, mechanisms of delivery, envied around the world. Yet so much of their potential remains untapped. There is huge scope for them to add dynamism to our economies, cohesiveness to our communities, redemption to our environment. The long-term dividends from doing so are enormous. The practical question is - how it is to be done?”

Innovation hotspots: Clustering the New Economy – Centre for Cities (UK)

Centre for Cities’ research has uncovered 344 hotspots of innovative and ‘new economy’ activity across the UK, and explores their potential to help resolve Britain’s sluggish productivity growth.

‘Councillors at the casino’? Why it is national not local government taking the local public services gamble – UK in a Changing Europe (UK)

The financial crisis among local authorities in England has returned to the national limelight, after Birmingham City Council became the latest (and biggest) to issue a Section 114 notice declaring it was unable to make payments. UKICE analyses the precarious financial situation many councils find themselves in, and argues that this predicament stems ultimately from central government and its political choices.

Employment & labour force

The Platinum Pound: Boosting employment among older workers – Demos (UK)

Workers over 50 already comprise one-third of the British workforce, and this is only expected to grow, given the UK’s ageing population. With many in this age group having left work during the Covid-19 pandemic and employment rates not having regained their pre-Covid strength, the UK urgently needs to lure them back into the workforce, and evidence suggests over 800,000 older people are currently out of work but would like a job. This Demos report therefore puts forward a number of policy proposals to attract these people back into work, including an annual £1,000 Priority Jobs Bonus for all workers aged over 55 working in shortage occupation and earning under £50,000 a year.

The Postcode Lottery of Apprenticeship Support – Policy Exchange (UK)

“New research published by Policy Exchange shines a light on the wide disparity in financial support for apprentices across the country – and the contrast with the support available to those continuing their studies at university.”

Inflation, pay & welfare

The Living Standards Outlook - Summer 2023 Update – Resolution Foundation (UK)

The Resolution Foundation has published the latest instalment in its Living Standards Outlook series, predicting that, although real pay growth has made a very welcome return in the UK, there will be no real growth for the median non-pensioner household income in 2024-25, a worrying prospect for the Government in an election year.

Supply-Side Expansion Has Driven the Decline in Inflation – Roosevelt Institute (USA)

After two years of price rises, inflation began to decelerate in the first half of 2023, particularly as regards prices faced by consumers. The Roosevelt Institution finds that this slowdown is not due to specific industries or measurements, but to supply-side expansion, as seen by a strong labour market throughout this decline in inflation.

Reassessing the Work Capability Assessment – Resolution Foundation (UK)

Following the opening of the Government’s consultation on changes to the Work Capability Assessment, the Resolution Foundation analyses the implications of the changes proposed by ministers, finding that these changes would make it less likely that claimants with certain conditions will qualify for the Limited Capability for Work Related Activity element of Universal Credit.

Health & social care

For public health and public finances: Reforming health and social care – IPPR (UK)

“The number of deaths that could have been avoided with timely healthcare or public health interventions is much higher in the UK than in all other comparable European nations. This is down to a wide range of factors, but the trajectory we are on is clearly not sustainable. It is not working for health nor prosperity. We deliberated with citizens and service users across the country to understand what a service that works for both public health and public finances could look like, and have created a 10-point plan for the future of health and care.”

Waste not, want not: Strategies to improve the supply of clinical staff to the NHS – Nuffield Trust (UK)

The Nuffield Trust’s report establishes the seriousness of attrition in the NHS and sets out a 10-year plan to improve retention, reduce dropout rates (which are currently astonishingly high) and alleviate strain in the chronically understaffed health service – this would include a proposal to gradually write off clinicians’ student debt over ten years.

The Next One: Preparing Canada for another health emergency – Public Policy Forum (Canada)

Covid-19 has taken the lives of over 53,000 Canadians, a higher death toll than those of the Second World War and the Korean and Afghanistan Wars combined. Furthermore, it is inevitable that another pandemic or public health crisis will recur at some point, and may well defy our expectations again. As such, it is crucial that public health authorities remain on alert and ready to defend the population from an enemy that cannot be truly identified.

Moving care closer to home: three unanswered questions – The King's Fund (UK)

The King’s Fund sets out three questions which must be answered in order to move care in England out of hospitals and into the home, these being: How can national leaders balance investment in care closer to home with investment in other priorities? How can national leaders grow a shrinking community workforce? Are we sure we have the right data to understanding what’s happening and what needs to happen?

Funding health care in England – Institute for Government (UK)

The IfG sets out how changes to healthcare in England could be made and analyses the impact of changes that have already been suggested. A £10 charge for GP appointments, for instance, would raise considerably less money than is assumed once exemptions are considered; switching to a social insurance model would leave funding dependent on the state of the job market; and any changes would be administratively complex and require changes to the tax system.

States Can Improve Transitions Between Medicaid and the Marketplace – Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (USA)

“States that run their own state-based health insurance marketplaces (SBMs) are uniquely positioned to help people no longer eligible for Medicaid transition to a marketplace plan and receive financial help if they qualify, as the state administers both the SBM and Medicaid. Thirteen of the 17 states (and Washington, D.C.) that currently operate SBMs are leading new strategies to ease these transitions during the unwinding of the Medicaid continuous coverage provision, and more states should consider similar changes during unwinding and beyond.”

Adult social care funding pressures – The Health Foundation (UK)

The Health Foundation projects the cost of meeting growing demand for adult social care in England and making some targeted improvements over the next ten years. It identifies a number of funding uplifts which will be needed to meet future demand and make improvements to care.

A vision for community pharmacy – Nuffield Trust and King’s Fund (UK)

This report outlines a vision for community pharmacy in the UK and what needs to change for it to help meet the health and care needs of a population in flux. It warns that this programme of change cannot be completed without changes to the law and without additional funding beyond what has already been announced.

Building Equitable Artificial Intelligence in Health Care – Urban Institute (USA)

“Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications in health care are prone to biases that could perpetuate health disparities. In this paper, we study the ways in which AI may maintain, perpetuate, or worsen inequitable outcomes in health care. … As AI becomes increasingly embedded in the daily operations of health care systems, it is imperative that we understand its risks and evaluate its impacts on health equity.”

Can The NHS Manage Without AI? – The King's Fund (UK)

This blog post examines large language models (LLMs), or an AI software which uses large volumes of text to ‘create learning on how sentences are constructed, the links between words and the unwritten rules of language’, and the implications of this technology for the NHS.

Net zero care: what will it take? – The Health Foundation (UK)

The NHS accounts for 4% of England’s total carbon footprint and 40% of public sector emissions. NHS England has set targets to reach net zero by 2040 for direct emissions and 2045 for emissions it influences – this will take concerted efforts across all areas of the health service. The Health Foundation focuses on the role of care delivery in achieving a net zero NHS, as it contributes both directly and indirectly to emissions.

Lessons from the Public-Private Partnerships in Surgical Care in Quebec – Fraser Institute (Canada)

The Fraser Institute “finds that private surgical clinics play an increasingly large role in Quebec’s universal health care system, following a 2006 Supreme Court ruling that allows private surgical clinics to perform select surgeries covered by the Quebec health-care system. In fact, private surgical clinics now perform 1-in-6 government-funded day surgeries in the province.”


Doing data justice – Institute for Government (UK)

This IfG report finds that data in the UK’s justice system has more gaps than other public services, is often of poor quality, and is often not analysed to the extent it should be in evaluating current policy and driving new initiatives. As such, the think tank “recommends the government develops a cross-system strategy, owned collectively by key organisations across justice, to agree priorities for data and a coordinated approach to data sharing. It also recommends the MoJ and others should take steps to engage better with external researchers and do more to publicise the successes of existing initiatives.”


Alternative policies for the UK’s asylum system – Bright Blue (UK)

“This report analyses UK public attitudes towards the principles and policies of the asylum system in the UK. The findings provide a strong case to – and policy advice for – this Conservative Government for reforming the asylum system.”

The Contribution of High-Skilled Immigrants to Innovation in the United States – Cato Institute (USA)

There is significant evidence to suggest that immigrants play a key role in US innovation: immigrants accounted for nearly a quarter (23%) of the STEM workforce in 2016, for instance, and made up 26% of US-based Nobel Prize winners between 1990 and 2000. This report uses new data to help measure how skilled immigrants contribute to innovation in the US, finding that immigrants are, on average, significantly more productive than native-born inventors, and even stimulate higher levels of productivity among US-born inventors.

Industrial policy will require immigration reform – Brookings Institution (USA)

Brookings reveals that, with the CHIPS and Science Act having paved the way for a boom in US semiconductor production and industrial activity, there will need to be an accompanying reform of immigration policy in order to support the semiconductor workforce and bring in enough semi-skilled workers to realise the full potential of the US’ high-tech manufacturing capacity.

Citizens’ rights and computer glitches: is digital immigration status fit for purpose? – UK in a Changing Europe (UK)

Evidence of immigration status has, since Brexit, increasingly been moved online: the EU Settlement Scheme was the first major instance of this, and biometric residence permits, passport stickers and other documents issued for other immigration routes will be phased out by 2024. However, this newfound reliance on digital systems raises questions about digital record-keeping and automated decision-making, and whether the new systems will be resilient to glitches.

Tech & AI

From risk to revolution: How AI can revive democracy – Chatham House (UK)

This Chatham House article argues that, rather than being seen as a safety concern to be guarded against, artificial intelligence (AI) can help revitalise public institutions, from local libraries to international organisations. In order to realise this potential, however, governments must do more than regulate the technology, and instead move towards implementing public AI systems.

Tipping Point: On The Edge of Superintelligence – Adam Smith Institute (UK)

This discussion paper by the Adam Smith Institute calls on policymakers to think ahead when it comes to artificial superintelligence. The paper recommends that Britain encourages innovation, research, and investment into AI companies, and simultaneously adapt policies to the impact of AI. The recommendations include: investing in British computing resources; creating a public comprehensive AI monitoring system; ensuring that the UK leads the world in international agreements on advanced AI systems; and more.

Artificial Intelligence: How big a threat to middle-class, white-collar jobs? – Macdonald-Laurier Institute (Canada)

As AI has risen to become one of the most discussed phenomena of 2023, concerns remain over the threat the technology may or may not pose to jobs, particularly middle-class jobs. This MLI paper examines AI’s possible economic impacts, and finds that evidence so far appears to suggest that AI will be deployed to help workers to do their jobs better rather than replace them, and that humans remain too intelligence, creative, versatile and adaptable to be replaced entirely.

How Europe Can Make the Most of AI – Centre for European Reform (Europe)

This briefing argues that the EU should hasten the adoption of AI, by creating clearer pathways to benefit implementation.  Firstly, the EU should ensure there is vigorous competition between companies providing AI ‘foundation’ models – the basic models used to analyse language, imaging and data. Secondly, the EU should support AI research and development, ensure that enough skilled AI workers are available through subsidised training and plentiful immigration visas, and remove regulatory barriers to AI adoption. Thirdly, the EU and its member-states should conduct overarching reviews of how existing regulation applies to AI, and ensure regulators are ‘AI-ready’.

Britain’s Two Main Parties are Trapped – Carnegie Europe (Europe)

This article asserts the following. Once an important bridge between the EU and the United States, the UK today has waning global influence and a weakening economy. Britons fear that the next election will make little difference.

Ursula von der Leyen’s Three Tiers of Challenges – Carnegie Europe (Europe)

These days, the gossip in Brussels is focused on whether Ursula von der Leyen will get another mandate as European Commission president in 2024. Under her four years of leadership, the EU has embarked on major transitions: toward a green and digital economy, building up its security and defense, laying out policies to beef up its economic security. In doing so, the EU has taken on tasks previously unthinkable, from procuring vaccines to financing arms delivery.

Defence, national security & space

Archipelagic Defense 2.0 – Hudson Institute (USA)

Hudson presents an operational concept for the US and its coalition partners, which include Australia and Japan, with the purpose of deterring Chinese aggression in the Western Pacific and defending the First Island Chain. The concept also calls for the US-led coalition to expand, where possible, to other states in the Indo-Pacific.

Defending Without Dominance: Accelerating the Transition to a New U.S. Defense Strategy – RAND Corporation (USA)

This report examines the gap between US defence aspirations and the reality of current policy, evaluates grand strategy principles that call for the US to be able to project its power to deter the outbreak of war in key regions, defines the Pentagon’s defence strategic approach since the Cold War and the assumptions it is based on, and explains why these assumptions are no longer valid. The report identifies six principal barriers to reform which have prevented the Department of Defense from making the changes needed.

The Government and the Private Sector Must Start Recognizing the China Threat – Hudson Institute (USA)

Continued Chinese aggression against Taiwan and evidence that Beijing is prepared to use force to annex the island have, thus far, not led the US Government and the private sector to make meaningful efforts to hedge against the possibility of another major geopolitical shock. This is particularly visible in the case of the Pentagon, which, despite its rhetoric, has not scaled up its contracting for shipbuilding and missile production to match the threat. Similarly, US firms must begin to examine their supply chains and the risks within them. Proactive action now will be of massive benefit to government and to business in the long term.

Promoting International Cooperation to Avoid Collisions Between Satellites – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (USA)

Despite the elevated risk of objects in space colliding, there have been surprisingly few comprehensive efforts to mitigate the risk of collisions between satellites in the near to medium term. This paper, informed by the views of global experts on the reasons for the lack of progress in avoiding collisions, makes recommendations as to a number of cross-sectoral and cooperative efforts to reduce the risk of collisions in space.

Maritime Reserves: Grasping the Opportunity – Royal United Services Institute (UK)

“The Integrated Review Refresh (IR23) describes a more contested and volatile world which may require greater defence capacity while funds remain tight. With a regular Naval Service that is already operating at or close to capacity, there is little scope to surge. This paper examines whether and how the Maritime Reserves (MR) can bring extra fighting power at an affordable cost.”

AUKUS Brings More than Nuclear Submarines to Southeast Asia – Lowy Institute (Australia)

This article discusses the potential created by the AUKUS deal, and zooms in on the advanced tech Australia receive under Pillar 2 of the deal. The AUKUS agreement between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia significantly shifts Australia’s defence strategy and future capabilities by providing the opportunity for Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines. But Australia will also receive advanced technologies under Pillar Two of the deal. This is one area in which Australia can leverage AUKUS to cement its defence relations with Southeast Asia.


Policy priorities for transport in London – Centre for London (UK)

This report calls for a rethink of how investments in London’s transport system are made, and makes recommendations to government and to the Mayor of London on how the capital’s transport system can be improved to provide its denizens with more affordable, sustainable and accessible modes of travel.

Energy & net zero

Hotting Up: How We Get To Net Zero In A Way That Brings People With Us – Onward (UK)

Onward has published the results of polling and focus group research conducted in August to test voters’ attitudes towards net zero politics in the wake of the Uxbridge by-election. This report identifies three key lessons: voters expect ambition from the Government alongside pragmatism; voters see shifts in net zero policy through the lens of ‘anti-politics’; and voters are cautious about net zero’s costs, but are optimistic about benefits.

Net Zero: an analysis of the economic impact – Civitas (UK)

“In this Civitas report, Ewen Stewart aims to establish the realistic central case for the estimated costs of the current government’s net zero policy for each household in the UK, to inform debate on one of the most expensive measures ever undertaken by the British state. Ewen Stewart suggests that the likely cost of net zero policies and legislation will be at least £4.58 trillion, well over three times official estimates of £1.3 trillion by the Climate Change Committee. Stewart describes this as a ‘best-case scenario’.”

Fairer winds: Workers' rights in the age of transition – IPPR (UK)

This briefing examines how the UK can learn from the fair net zero transition policies of the US and the EU, and identifies five key principles to craft an effective UK green industrial strategy, these being: long-term certainty and investment; conditionality; skills training; socialising rewards; and focusing on regions.

Renewable Energy and Job Creation: An Automation Risk Assessment – KAPSARC (Saudi Arabia)

“The necessity of a green transition from traditional energy sources to renewable alternatives has brought with it optimism regarding the employment benefits of this change. … The International Renewable Energy Association (IRENA) has been tracking employment in renewable energy for over a decade, noting year-on-year increases, even during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Literature on the topic indicates that renewable energy sources produce more jobs both per gigawatt of energy produced and per dollar invested in the project when compared to traditional energy sources.”

Climate of the Nation 2023 – Australia Institute (Australia)

2023 has been defined by the ongoing cost of living crisis, but concerns about climate change have remained high for many Australian. Two in three Australians think state governments should phase out coal mining and transition to new industries. Three in four Australians support imposing a tax on businesses based on how much they pollute. Almost half of Australians think fossil fuel producers should pay for the costs of responding to climate change, three more times than who thinking taxpayers or people.

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