Research Project

Choice: What role can it play in helping local public services evolve?

Authors: Natalie Arend, Dan Corry, Warren Hatter, NLGN, Professor Julian Le Grand, LSE and Adam Lent, Consultant and Making Choices Project Lead

This pamphlet is the first output of NLGN’s Making Choices project – NLGN’s main project for 2003/4. The aim of this pamphlet is to pin down exactly what ‘choice’ means in the delivery of local public services.

The pamphlet looks at the concept of choice and the part it may be able to play in helping local public services evolve in accordance with the preferences of users and the community. It also tries to break down ‘choice’ into its different potential meanings; all may have a role in local public services. It looks as well at the problems of choice and ends with the big questions that the overall project will need to address. The pamphlet has benefited from discussion at a recent seminar where helpful papers were presented.

Drawing on examples from the UK and overseas, the overall project will go on to recommend policies and offer practical guidance on how increased user choice can be successfully implemented and managed. The project will map out the areas of local authority services where choice can be readily delivered and also looks at the implications for social cohesion. In doing so, we will examine the benefits, practicalities and implications of a concept that could pave the way to more effective and efficient service delivery. As a think-tank rooted in local issues and bringing together relevant knowledge from both the private and public sectors, NLGN is ideally placed to carry out this important work.

We are aware of course that ‘choice’ as a concept has many different interpretations and uses and that it is not without controversy. Making Choices will focus on local services where the public, as users, consumers and citizens, have real options – either individually or collectively, and either periodically or continually. To understand what this means in practice, the research is exploring case studies where services and quality of life have been enhanced by giving people a real choice. We hope to complete this work early in 2004.

In the first instance, however, we want to use this initial paper as a way of scoping out the key issues relating to both ‘choice’ as a concept and the role that it might play in helping local public services evolve. All feedback therefore, however supportive or critical will be gratefully received.

Choice: What role can it play in helping local public services evolve?
(PDF version)