Any change brings with it upfront costs and Government must therefore indicate its willingness for public bodies to divert some of their scare resources to generating and refining new ideas and approaches. By making a commitment to long-term improvements over and above short-term cost reduction, the Government will underline the real implications of the change in narrative away from the ‘age of austerity’ towards Open Public Services. Cost reduction should no longer be the sole lens through which public services are examined and evaluated.
In addition, if we are to realise the ambition of diversity of provision across all sectors, specific technical areas including investment finance, asset ownership, implicit tax disadvantages and the treatment of VAT will need to be resolved in order to reduce barriers to entry. Any potential provider will, of course, also need to demonstrate how they will achieve long-term cost reductions and improve value for money. This is particularly true given that greater transparency and openness around costs which will increasingly turn the public into ‘armchair auditors’.