Research Project

Making Choices: How can choice improve local public services?

Leading politicians of all hues have taken to evangelising on choice in a way that has not been seen since the 1980s. It would be easy to think that choice is a public good, demanded by citizens and users – and that enhancing choice in public services is a pain-free, cost-free way of sharpening up the delivery of publicly funded services. At the same time, there are those who decry choice at every opportunity, believing it to be a bedfellow of – or even the same thing as – privatisation.

Making Choices is a ground-breaking report, focused on local government services, that makes it clear that the issue of choice is far more complex. The authors have taken a long, hard look at both the theory and the reality of choice, through extensive desk research, seminar work and case study investigation. At a theoretical level, they propose a definition of choice that is based on real world practice, and offers a clear way through much of the muddled rhetoric. At a practical level, they conclude that, contrary to what much of the debate tells us, enhancing choice can lead to real improvements, but that it is not easy and, in the short term at least, always costs.

To help policy-makers and front-line managers find a way through the choice minefield, Making Choices outlines the conditions that need to be in place for enhancing choice to be appropriate, and the key challenges that need addressing to ensure it is a fair and effective system. Central to this are debates around resource capacity and equity.

The report is the fourth in NLGN’s ‘Delivering Change’ series, which aims to help senior officers and elected members learn from practical evidence of change to respond positively to the local government modernisation agenda.

Making Choices summary.pdf
(PDF: Executive Summary and Introduction version)