What has the public sector ever done for us?

Pub. Date
23 June, 2005

Organised by NIESR as part of the ESRC Social Science Week 2005

Venue: NIESR

by Dr Philip Stevens, NIESR

The public sector represents a sizable proportion of the UK economy and spending has risen at an almost unprecedented rate in recent years. Is this a good or a bad thing? Is government spending good value for money? How can one tell? Measuring the output of the public sector is fraught with difficulties that were long thought to be insurmountable. This led to the question of what the public sector does being answered simply with how much it spent. This presentation will survey recent attempts to generate more useful measures of the output and productivity of the public sector. It will consider what it is we are trying to measure, how one ought to go about doing it and how these might depend on the precise questions being asked. It will provide illustrations from a number of government services, including the big political bugbears of health and education spending.

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