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Social Policy in a Cold Climate : Spending, Policies and Outcomes since the Economic Crisis in the UK

Polina Obolenskaya
p. 111-135

Résumé

This paper draws on extensive work undertaken with colleagues at the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE) at the London School of Economics, during the Social Policy in a Cold Climate research programme (2011-2015), and on the book that followed. It provides a brief overview of some of the findings which report on the responses of the UK government to the recession of 2008 in terms of public spending and policies and their effect on poverty, inequality and distribution of social and economic outcomes. For a number of areas of social policy this paper shows that while the initial response of the Labour government to the financial crisis was to continue the investment in public services, with increased spending and emphasis on the need to ‘support vulnerable groups through the downturn’, the period that followed, under the Coalition government, can be characterised as that of ‘selective austerity’, with significant cuts to a number of spending areas accompanied by a range of major reforms. Although both governments expressed their commitment to a fairer and more equal society, by 2014/15 the challenges of social justice remained and some were even greater than before the recession.

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Texte intégral

Introduction

  • 1 HM Treasury 2008; HM Government 2010.

1In 2008 the UK, like many other countries plunged into the worst recession since the 1930s. A few years on, in 2010, there was a change in government : from Labour to the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition. While Labour’s initial response to the recession was to expand spending on public services in order to stave off the worst of the economic downturn, the Coalition government committed to a very different strategy of rapid deficit reductions, primarily through spending cuts, but also through a fundamental restructuring of the welfare state. Not all areas of public spending were affected equally in terms of how much they had to contribute to the government’s plans for reducing the public sector deficit, resulting in selective cuts to benefits and unprotected public services. But despite different fiscal priorities, both Labour and the Coalition expressed a clear commitment to a fairer and more equal society, a society where there is ‘opportunity and security for all’ and where ‘those most in need are protected’.1

  • 2 The project was funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Nuffield Foundation and Trust for London (...)

2This paper is based on the extensive work undertaken with colleagues at the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE) at the London School of Economics during the Social Policy in a Cold Climate research programme (2011-2015), and the book that followed.2 It provides a brief overview of public spending and some of the social policies and social outcomes since the economic crisis and downturn in the UK. Since the work on this project was completed in 2015, this paper is not an account of the UK’s spending and policies to date but up to the end of the Conservative and Liberal-Democrats coalition period with a very limited description of what followed after the 2015 elections. With a view to being brief, the paper reports on the first five areas of policy covered by the Social Policy in a Cold Climate Programme (below), with only limited reference to the others:

  • Benefits, pensions and tax credits

  • Young children (under 5s)

  • Schools

  • Health

  • Adult Social Care

  • Further and Higher education

  • Employment

  • Housing

3The list of policy areas above is not an exhaustive one and a number of important and interesting areas, such as children’s social care for example, were not part of the research programme. These areas represent the majority of public spending and were well within the scope of the project. Moreover, since this paper is a concise overview of the findings from a large research project, it is not within its scope to report systematically on all the policy areas in detail.

4This article therefore provides examples of some of the spending and outcome trends reported in more detail elsewhere within the project’s outputs and readers are encouraged to refer back to the material from the Social Policy in a Cold Climate programme.

5Across the above mentioned policy areas, this paper addresses the following questions:

  1. Briefly, what were the policies of the two Governments (Labour and Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition) after the recession in the UK, up to the end of the Coalition government in 2014/15?

  2. What changes occurred in the scale and profile of public spending during this period?

  3. What specific impacts did these policy and spending changes have on poverty, inequality and social and economic outcomes? 

Social Policies and Structural Reforms since the Recession

As the financial crisis unfolded, the Labour government’s response to it was not only to stick to its pre-recession spending plans, which originally meant a slight decline as a share of what was predicted to be a growing economy, but also to continue with their social policies and programmes with some extension to the previous approaches to help the most vulnerable through the downturn. A few examples of these were bringing forward the increase in child benefit amount paid ; introducing the childcare entitlement support protection for four weeks if the families lost their qualifying hours ; increasing spending by the Department for Work and Pensions on funding Jobcentre Plus activities and the development of new schemes to help those facing redundancies (see Lupton et al. 2013 for more details on Labour’s social policy record). And while the Coalition government also had such crisis-response measures in place, the surprising position for many was that Labour did not combine these with cuts to spending on ongoing initiatives to keep the deficit in check, but rather it maintained continuity in their policies and programmes.

  • 3 HM Government 2010: 7.
  • 4 Chancellor’s speech introducing the 2010 Emergency Budget.
  • 5 HM Government 2010: 7.

The Coalition government announced that deficit reduction was to be its most urgent task, but insisted that their decisions would be fair, “so that all those most in need are protected”.3 The Chancellor announced that those who are better-off would be expected to “pay more than the poorest, not just in terms of cash, but as a proportion of income as well”.4 In order to achieve their broader vision of “a Britain where social mobility is unlocked, where everyone, regardless of background, has the chance to rise as high as their talents and ambition allow them”, the government was set to embark on a journey of “sweeping reform of welfare, taxes, and […] schools – with a breaking open of the state monopoly and extra money following the poorest pupils”.5

  • 6 HM Government 2010.

It is clear that despite the Coalition’s strong position on spending cuts, it planned to be more than just the government of austerity and it pledged to deliver “radical reforming government, a stronger society, a smaller state and power and responsibility in the hands of every citizen”6. Indeed, the Coalition introduced bold reforms and undertook systematic restructuring while shifting responsibility from the state to private providers. Table 1 in the Appendix shows a summary of some of the Coalition’s flagship policies in selected social policy areas.

Public Finances and Public Spending since the Crisis

  • 7 For more details on the Labour’s record see Lupton et al. (2013)
  • 8 To concentrate on public spending, the debt and deficit figures reported here exclude the effect of (...)

During the recession and its aftermath, Labour’s policies continued to be dominated by increased spending on what it saw as the ‘modernisation’ of public services. And while spending on cash benefits also increased, most of the increase was focused on children and pensioners, not on other working-age benefits, in line with its priorities of reducing child and pensioner poverty.7 As a result, total spending as a share of GDP rose between 2007/08 and 2009/10 from 37.1% to 42.5%, excluding support for banking and finance. Despite some of the criticism of Labour’s previous spending, public expenditure and taxation combined only had a modest effect on the public finances up to 2007/08, with both debt and deficit, excluding support for public sector banks,8 being at relatively low levels as a share of national income compared to historic standards (35.5% and 0.2%, respectively): see Figure 1 in the Appendix. But following the recession, and during the last years of the Labour government, the accumulation of debt and deficit experienced a large increase. This meant the Coalition inherited not only a much weaker economy than its predecessor but also soaring public debts. By 2009/10, public sector debt was just short of 65% of national income and deficit stood at 6.8% of GDP, again leaving aside support for the banking sector. Despite the reduction in public spending during the Coalition’s term, the public sector debt continued to rise, and by 2014/15 had reached 83.3% of GDP, while the public sector deficit fell from 6.8% of GDP to 3.3% of GDP between 2009/10 and 2014/15 (excluding support for the banking sector). So over the period since the economic crisis and up to 2014/15, public sector debt almost doubled as a share of GDP.

6In terms of public spending priorities, from May 2010, Labour’s financial investment in public services were replaced by the Coalition’s determination to reduce the deficit, 77% of which was planned to come from cuts to spending on public services and 23% from tax increases. And so between 2009/10 and 2014/15 spending on public services as a share of GDP fell from 42.5% to 37.5%, partly because of the increase in GDP over the period but also due to a 3.8% cut to public spending. Over the period since the crisis and up to 2014/15, public spending as a share of GDP returned to around the level of 2007/08 and the total public spending had increased by 5.4% in real terms. However, all of the increase in spending was pre-2010/11 (see Figure 2 in the Appendix).

  • 9 Here spending areas refer to HM Treasury’s categorization of Public Expenditure into ‘functions’ wi (...)
  • 10 Author’s calculations based on figures in Table 4.3 in HM Treasury (2015)

7Therefore, the increase in overall pubic spending on services observed over the period since the recession, masks not only consistent cuts to spending from 2010/11 onwards, but also sizeable cuts across many spending areas9 during the time of the Coalition government (light bars in Figure 3 in the appendix). The relatively modest reduction in total spending on public services of 3.8% between 2009/10 and 2014/1510 was due to the fact that spending on the two largest areas of spending – health and social protection (which together make up more than half of the total spending on public services) had increased, while many smaller spending areas experienced significant cuts. These include for example, housing and community amenities, public order and safety and defence (Figure 3 in the Appendix). These patterns are in contrast to changes over Labour’s last years in government (shown by the dark bars in Figure 3 in the appendix), which saw positive growth in spending across all areas between the time around the onset of the recession and 2009/10.

Selective Austerity

8The breakdowns of spending figures in Figure 3 in the Appendix mask further smaller sub-functions of spending which were significantly affected by the cuts during the Coalition government, which in turn had a profound impact on service delivery and social and economic outcomes, resulting in highly selective austerity across policy areas.

  • 11 Vizard and Obolenskaya, 2015; Vizard and Obolenskaya, 2016.
  • 12 See Lupton et al. 2016b for more details.
  • 13 See Lupton et al. 2016c for more details.
  • 14 See Hills et al. 2016a for more details.
  • 15 See Burchardt and Obolenskaya 2016 and also further in this paper.

9While the Coalition maintained spending in some policy areas, it implemented cuts to others. Thus budgets for the NHS and schools (which account for more than a quarter of total departmental expenditure) were relatively protected. Over the Coalition period (and also overall since 2007/08) expenditure on health increased in real terms, but to a smaller degree compared to the historical standards and to what is deemed necessary in keeping up with the increasing needs of the ageing population.11 While Figure 3 in the appendix indicates that total expenditure on education was cut by 7 % over the period of the Coalition (there is also an overall fall in this expenditure over the period since the economic crisis), it was not cut uniformly. For example, spending on schools (which makes up the largest share of education spending) actually remained relatively stable over the period (the change in spending on primary and secondary school was somewhere between -3 % and +1 % depending on the definition used.12 This is in contrast to sharp cuts to spending on adults skills and training which saw a 27 % fall.13 As Figure 3 in the Appendix shows, expenditure on social protection had increased in real terms since the recession (and also during the Coalition’s term in Government). This partly reflects more generous pensions and an increase in the spending on income tax personal allowances (which went up from £ 6,475 to £ 10,600), but masks cuts to tax credits, working age benefits14 and cuts to adult social care.15

  • 16 See Burchardt and Obolenskaya 2016 for more details.
  • 17 See Tunstall (2016) for more details.

10The Coalition’s decision to reduce the deficit by predominantly reducing spending on services with a lower proportion of savings coming from increases in taxes, while protecting spending on schools, health and pensions, meant that unprotected spending areas were carrying most of the burden of deficit reduction. Spending by Local Authorities, which provide most frontline services, experienced a 40% cut over the period. As a result, spending on many services within this area fell sharply, at the time when the need for them had actually increased. For example, spending on the under fives fell by 13%, while the number of children under 5 had increased by 6% over the period. Spending on adult social care, most of which goes towards caring for the elderly, was cut by between 7% and 10% (depending on the definition used,16 while there was a 10% rise in the population aged 65 and over (Figure 4 in the Appendix). Finally, spending on housing and community amenities (which consists of both local and central government spending) fell by a staggering 39% over the Coalition period, while the supply of housing, despite increasing over the Coalition’s term in government, remained well below the pre-recession peak and level of demand.17

Uneven impact of the crisis : results by the end of coalition period

  • 18 A summary of Labour’s term can be found in Hills et al. 2016a and details in Lupton et al. (2013) a (...)

On the eve of the economic crisis, in 2007, the UK in many respects was a more equal society than it had been at the start of the Labour government. For example, over the course of the Labour government, there had been notable reductions in child and pensioner poverty; the position of disadvantaged neighbourhoods had improved; gaps at school between children from lower and higher income families had declined; and increases in health and education spending had a further equalising effect. As the financial crisis unfolded, Labour’s response was not only to continue to increase public spending but also to carry on with their social policies and programmes with some extension to the previous approaches, placing emphasis on the need to “support vulnerable groups through the downturn”. A sense of Labour’s progress is more mixed when only a period of five years preceding the change in government in 2010 is considered as opposed to the whole period since 1997, with the progress against some indicators slowing down, not least as the recession took effect. Moreover, even before the economic crisis unfolded, there was still much to be done in improving income inequality, low wage employment and rising youth unemployment, and despite some progress inequalities in health and education remained high. Additionally, there were some major issues of policy delivery that were left unresolved, such as how to pay for long-term adult care and improve quality of childcare provision, but also how to fix what was widely accepted to be a dysfunctional housing system.18

While it was too early to provide a full evaluation of the impact of policies since the recession and up to 2015 during Social Policy in a Cold Climate programme (when in fact most of the data went up to 2013, even 2012 in some cases), the analysis suggests that the picture was either mixed or there was no significant change, as yet, in many outcomes. The authors were, however, able to conclude that there was evidence of the squeeze on resources and pressure on public services starting to show not only in outputs but also in outcomes. Here I provide some examples of changes in outputs and outcomes within policies of interest over the period since the recession and to the end of the Coalition government as well as presenting some evidence on changes in poverty and inequality over the period.

Outputs and Outcomes

The Coalition inherited better social conditions compared to Labour, but a tougher economic climate and persistent inequalities accompanied by a number of unresolved policy issues. The Coalition’s commitment to eliminating the deficit, which resulted in funding cuts, did not go unnoticed – pressure and service reduction was felt across a number of areas, particularly strongly in unprotected services.

  • 19 Author’s calculations based on Figure 9.3 in Burchardt and Obolenskaya (2016).

One such area was adult social care which, as mentioned previously, experienced severe spending cuts. These cuts were accompanied by a continuous decline in the number of people receiving both community and residential care since 2009/10, falling by 28% overall during the period between 2007/08 and 2013/14.19 Additionally, there was an emphasis on preventative services and indications of intensification of care provision for those with greater needs, when in reality care needs are on a continuum, with appropriate support required at various stages, as Burchardt and Obolenskaya (2016) have highlighted. The withdrawal of formal adult social care services is reflected in the pressure on unpaid carers and growing unmet care need.

There were mixed outputs within the early years sector, with a large number of Sure Start children’s centres closing down (with 41% spending cuts to Sure Start Children’s centres), but provision within many remaining centres expanding, partly because services became more targeted. Also, free childcare entitlement was extended to 2-year olds from poorer families and there was an expansion of support from health visitors for teenage parents. The progress across a number of indicators which Labour policies helped to improve, unsurprisingly, began to show only towards the end of the parliament. Noticeable narrowing of the social class gap in infant mortality rate and low birth weight began from 2005 onwards and the gap in early child development between children in disadvantaged areas and others started to fall from 2007. The latter, Stewart and Obolenskaya (2016) suggest could be due to consistent improvement in the quality of provision of early years education during Labour’s term in office.

  • 20 Vizard and Obolenskaya (2015); Vizard and Obolenskaya (2016).
  • 21 Vizard and Obolenskaya (2016); ONS 2015.
  • 22 Vizard and Obolenskaya (2013); Vizard and Obolenskaya (2015); Vizard and Obolenskaya (2016).

Protected areas experienced less of a hit, but increasing demand for certain services meant cracks were starting to appear in their provision. For example, while health spending was increasing in real terms over the Coalition’s time in government and overall since the recession, the annual growth rate was low compared to historical standards and had widely been deemed insufficient in relation to the increasing demand. Subsequently, inputs and outputs growth slowed down after the Coalition came to power, with pressures on service access and service quality showing. For example, even after lowering the target from 98 % to 95 % of A&E patients being treated or discharged within four hours of arrival, the target was missed in a number of quarters during the Coalition’s final years. Other examples include longer waiting times for admitted and non-admitted patients and increasing cancer waiting lists over the course of the Coalition period. And while some health-related outcomes, such as mortality rates and life expectancy, take a long time to reflect the impacts of policies and effects of pressure on services, others were deteriorating or not improving.20 In the period after the recession and downturn, there were signs of deteriorating mental health indicators which manifested in a rise in the proportion of people at risk of poor mental health (measured by GHQ-12) between 2008 and 2012 and an increase in suicide rates in England between 2008 and 2013.21 Moreover, while the targets for health inequalities in life expectancy, and mortality from cancer and circulatory diseases were not reached during the Labour period, they were dropped as targets by the Coalition and inequalities in these areas remained deeply entrenched.22

  • 23 See Lupton et al. (2016b) for further details and explanations on school attainment.

11Spending on schools, as Lupton et al. (2016b) show, was protected and the difference in spending levels in real terms between the Labour administration and the Coalition was not as stark as in some other areas. Despite some continuities in the policies between Labour and the Coalition, the two governments had widely different visions of school education and there were some major changes in the system during the Coalition period. The outputs in school education generally followed the existing patterns. For example, after a period of decline under Labour, the pupil-teacher ratios had stabilised and there was an increase in the pupils to school ratios – the trend that began before the Coalition took government. As Lupton et al. (2016b) point out, most of the Coalition’s major reforms to curriculum and assessment had not come into effect at all by the time the school test results reported in their work were taken. For the earlier period since the recession, their findings show that since the recession and up to 2013 there was an improvement in the pupil attainment at both primary level (Key Stage 2) and secondary (CGSEs) with attainment gap between disadvantage pupils and all others declining. Results for 2014, when the Coalition made changes to what was included in the assessment of GCSEs, show a large drop in attainment, which meant it was lower than in 2010. The authors offer two explanations for the sharp decline in this measure of attainment. Firstly, the return of the proportion of pupils achieving A*-C in any 5 GCSE subjects back to 2008 level indicates that the progress made during the period between 2008 and 2013 was almost entirely driven by the vocational subjects and resitting the exams (which were no longer part of the new 2014 assessment). And secondly, changes to the assessment of GCSEs resulted in the genuine decline in attainment among those at the lower attainment spectrum. Furthermore, the gaps in attainment between disadvantaged pupils and all others widened in 2014 for both primary and secondary education.23

  • 24 The trends and data for these indicators are explored more fully in Lupton et al. (2015).
  • 25 Hills et al. 2016a.

12For an overview of trends across social policy areas, Hills et al. (2016a) refer to three sets of indicators, which cover a number of outcomes in poverty, housing, health, education, employment and other areas.24 With obvious limitations in terms of the timing of measuring these outcomes, comparison limitations, and coverage across the three sets of indicators, the progress against these indicators during the Labour period and the Coalition show a mixed picture but, overall, a rather positive trend (Table 2 in the Appendix). The Coalition government’s own set of ‘impact indicators’ show progress in the majority of outcomes since 2010 (column one in Table 2 in the Appendix). Two of the indicators within this set that did not show improvement are, which is not surprising given pressures on health services, related to emergency readmissions and patient experience. The ‘Opportunity for all’ indicators, data for which is available for both Labour’s term and, partially, for the Coalition’s, show a slightly higher number of indicators which got worse since 2010 (which include, for example, absolute low income, the education and NEET rate of looked-after children and smoking among lower socioeconomic groups). Additionally, for 24 out of 59 indicators there was no available data to trace progress from 2010 (column 3 in Table 2 in the Appendix). ‘Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion’ indicators (MOPSE) produced by the Policy Institute for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, also do not cover the period of the Coalition’s time in government as well as earlier periods with many indicators not available to trace progress (column 5 in Table 2 in the Appendix). The indicators in this set that showed deterioration included poverty as well as recurring unemployment among others. Overall, as authors conclude, trends since 2009/10 in comparison to the available trends for the earlier period (broadly covering Labour by the ‘Opportunity for All’ indicators and approximately the 10-year period to 2010 covered by the MOPSE indicators), are somewhat less favourable.25

Not ‘All in It Together’

  • 26 The results from the analysis by De Agostini et al. (2015) are discussed in Hills et al. (2016b)
  • 27 De Agostini et al. (2015), Figure 3.6

While the Coalition’s aim was to protect those most in need during the cuts to public spending, analysis by De Agostini et al. (2015)26 shows that this was not realised in terms of changes made to the tax and benefit system as illustrated by Figure 5 in the Appendix. Looking at the impact of the changes to personal direct taxes and cash benefits that took place during the Coalition period, the poorer groups were the losers while the richest groups were the gainers from the policies. Between 2010/11 and 2014/15 people in the bottom twentieth of the income distribution saw a nearly 3 per cent decline in their incomes on average due to the policy changes compared to what it would have been without them (so compared to a hypothetical alternative in which the 2009/10 unchanged system was uprated with inflation). The next five-twentieths of the income distribution lost nearly 2 per cent. This is in stark contrast to the experience of those at the top half of the income distribution where people saw a net increase in their income from the changes, with the exception of the top twentieth income group. Furthermore, and using the same methodology, De Agostini and colleagues (2015) demonstrate with the same methodology, that there was also a redistribution from families with young children to those without children.27 Pensioners were in a relatively more favourable position than children in terms of tax and benefit transfers. The cost of transfers to pensioners increased during the Labour period from 5.1% of GDP to 6.3% and remained at that level at the end of the Coalition period. At the same time, the cost of working-age benefits related to having children fell from 2.6% of GDP to 2.2% over the Coalition period.

  • 28 Stewart and Roberts (2016)

One result from the Coalition’s decision on social security spending is that the poverty rates followed different trajectories for different groups, varying depending on the poverty measure used. During the time since the recession and to 2014/15, poverty rates fell the most among pensioners, followed by children, but not among those of working age (Table 3 in the Appendix). Although there was some small progress in poverty rates among children since the recession, the poverty rates appear to begin to rise in the final two years of available data which coincide with the final years of the Coalition government, reaching 19% for relative, before housing cost poverty and 29% for after housing cost poverty among children. Furthermore, as Stewart and Obolenskaya (2016) show, the poverty rate among children living in families with a baby sibling and households where the youngest child is 16 or older had been increasing from 2010/11. The small overall progress on child poverty had not been rapid enough to meet the eradication of child poverty by the 2020 target set out in the Child Poverty Act 2010. This target was eventually abandoned by the Conservative government in 2016 in favour of life chances measures – a move which, coincidentally, had very little support among academics, think tanks, local authorities and frontline services.28

  • 29 Hills et al. (2016c)
  • 30 See Lupton et al. (2016c) for details
  • 31 Hill et al. (2016c)

The divides in poverty risks and impact of the tax and benefits system were not the only phenomena observed. Since the economic crisis, there were growing divides in household income among those in different tenures for example, with private tenants experiencing the greatest fall in real income after housing costs.29 While London was pulling away from the North of England on a number of socio-economic indicators, the inequalities within London had increased, making it even more unequal in comparison to other regions.30 And young people in their twenties stood out in terms of the largest losses of employment, hourly pay and weekly earnings endured since the recession compared to other age groups, with the wealth gap between young and old increasing even further.31

Conclusion

This paper draws on extensive findings from the research outputs of the Social Policy in a Cold Climate programme on the impact of policies and public spending on the associated social outcomes in the UK, since the recession and downturn up to the end of the Coalition government in 2015.

For many outcomes, however, it was too early to tell how spending and policies have impacted them. This is both because some of the data was not yet available, but also due to lead time between government policy actions and the outcomes that follow. As mentioned in the introduction, it was not within the scope of this paper to update the figures with the most recent data. However, it is still possible to see a general pattern in outcomes in many areas.

By the end of the Coalition government in 2015, the deficit as a share of GDP fell but debt was still growing, and more spending cuts were looming. At the same time, the pressure was mounting on many public services at a time of squeezed resources and increasing demand. The health sector, for example, was experiencing growing waiting lists, consistently missed A&E waiting targets, and a rising number of days lost due to delayed transfers of care; a trend that continued beyond 2015. And while the activity and productivity of the healthcare sector is rising, it is widely believed not to be enough to keep up with growing demand, unless more funding is provided. In other areas, while the Conservative government that followed recognised adult social care to be in crisis, and many others were seeing it as being beyond the crisis level, it was unclear what was going to be done in addressing the deep and urgent problems in this area. All of these issues are facing continuing uncertainty in the face of the major economic and political changes of 2016 and 2017, notably the dramatic Brexit vote in EU Referendum in June 2016, and the outcome of the snap General Election in June 2017.

The persistence of high child poverty, which has been slow to improve and by some measures and time scales worsened, with a bleak outlook for the future, particularly for larger families, deeply entrenched socio-economic inequalities in health, and a regionally unbalanced economy and society are just some of the issues facing the current government.

  • 32 Stewart and Obolenskaya (2016), p.55.

Moreover, what is clear from the Coalition period is that people were not “all in it together”. The findings from the Social Policy in a Cold Climate work briefly described in this paper show that by the end of the Coalition government, social injustices and divides by region, gender, age, social position, etc. were not reducing. Monitoring of public spending, social policies and outcomes for different groups of the population are therefore vital. Whilst the data used in the underlying work for this paper may have been taken at an earlier than ideal time points, and being mindful that it takes time for policies to impact social and economic outcomes, Steward and Obolenskaya (2016) make the case that it may have been too early to judge the impact of Coalition policies, “but [it is] not too early to be concerned”.32

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Office for National Statistics, Suicides in the United Kingdom: 2013 registrations, 2015. available at: <https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/suicidesintheunitedkingdom/2015-02-19>, retrieved January 2017.

Office for National Statistics, “Pubic Sector Finances October 2016”, Statistical Bulletin, 22 November 2016, available at: <https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/governmentpublicsectorandtaxes/publicsectorfinance/bulletins/publicsectorfinances/oct2016>, retrieved November 2016.

Stewart, K., Roberts, N., “How do experts think child poverty should be measured in the UK? An analysis of the Coalition Government’s consultation on child poverty measurement 2012-13”, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion Working paper, London: CASE, LSE, WP197, July 2016, available at: <http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/dps/case/cp/casepaper197.pdf>, retrieved January 2017.

Tunstall, R., “Housing”, in Lupton, R., Burchardt, T., Hills, J., Stewart, K., Vizard, P. (Eds.), Social Policy in a Cold Climate: Policies and their consequences since the crisis, Chapter 7, pp. 125-145, Bristol: Policy Press, 2016.

Vizard, P., Obolenskaya, P., Labour’s Record on Health, Social Policy in a Cold Climate Working Paper, London : CASE, LSE, WP02, July 2013.

Vizard, P., Obolenskaya, P., “The Coalition’s Record on Health: Policy, Spending and Outcomes 2010-2015”, Social Policy in a Cold Climate Working Paper, London: CASE, LSE, WP16, January 2015.

Vizard, P., Obolenskaya, P., “Health”, in Lupton, R., Burchardt, T., Hills, J., Stewart, K., Vizard, P. (Eds.), Social Policy in a Cold Climate: Policies and their consequences since the crisis, Chapter 8, pp. 147-186, Bristol: Policy Press, 2016.

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Annexe

Table 1 : Summary of selected social policies under the coalition government, UK, 2010-2015

Personal taxes, benefits and pensions

  • Increase in the income tax personal allowance to £ 10,600 and reduction in top rate of tax.

  • Pension uprating “triple locked” to ensure growth at least in line with earnings.

  • Working age benefits increased by Consumer Prices Index not the higher Retail Prices Index, and only by 1 per cent for three years from April 2013. Also overall “welfare cap”.

  • Cuts, changes to eligibility and greater conditionality for many benefits and tax credits.

  • Continuing but adding to Labour’s pension reform programme including automatic enrolment, increases in the state pension age, and planned move to a flat rate single tier pension from 2016.

  • Merging six working age benefits into new ‘Universal Credit’.

Health

  • New overarching framework for health services in England.

  • New arrangements for the commissioning, management and provision of health services, including an independent NHS Board to oversee the administration of health services in England, the abolition of strategic health authorities and Primary Care Trusts, and the creation of GP-led clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).

  • New “any qualified provider” rule within commissioning, intended to promote competitive tendering between public, private and third sector providers.

  • New economic regulation responsibilities given to Monitor; and an emphasis on outcomes through the new NHS Outcomes and Public Health Outcomes Frameworks.

Adult Social Care

  • Dilnot Commission on funding of long-term care (implemented in Care Act 2014), but the implementation of the lifetime cap and more relaxed capital means test were delayed until 2020.

  • Redefining national minimum eligibility criteria for adult social care, and introducing new local authority statutory duties.

  • Integration of health and social care including through Health and Well-Being Boards and pooled funding (Better Care Funding).

  • New statutory support for carers.

  • Changes in the regulation and inspection of residential and community care services.

The Under Fives

  • Roll out of Labour’s pilot of 15 hours free early education to the most disadvantaged 20 per cent (and then 40 per cent) of two year-olds

  • Introduction of greater flexibility of maternity/paternity leave in the first year.

  • Establishment of the Early Intervention Foundation, with a remit to promote evidence about what works, and to raise funds for interventions from beyond government.

  • Targeting Sure Start Children’s Centres on children and families at risk of poor outcomes.

  • Removal of additional cash benefits during pregnancy and the first year of life.

Schools

  • Expansion of Academies programme and introduction of Free Schools, University Technical Colleges and Studio Schools.

  • Introduction of ‘Pupil Premium’ – extra funding for pupils eligible for free school meals.

  • Major reforms to curriculum and assessment at all levels to make them ‘more challenging’. Reduction in vocational qualifications that count towards GCSE performance tables.

  • Reforms to teacher training –led by schools with smaller role for universities.

  • Reform of teachers’ pay and conditions including performance pay.

Source : Lupton et al. 2015, Box 1. with minor updates from the Author and excluding policies for Housing ; Employment ; Regeneration and Neighbourhood Renewal ; and Further Education (FE) and Skills, and Higher Education (HE).

Figure 1 : Net public sector debt and deficit (excluding public sector banks), 1997/98 to 2014/15, UK

Figure 1 : Net public sector debt and deficit (excluding public sector banks), 1997/98 to 2014/15, UK

Source : ONS 2016 (data underlying Table 2).

Figure 2 Total spending on public services, GDP, and total spending on public services as a share of GDP (in 2014-15 prices), 1997/98 to 2014-15, UK

Figure 2 Total spending on public services, GDP, and total spending on public services as a share of GDP (in 2014-15 prices), 1997/98 to 2014-15, UK

Source : HM Treasury (2015), Table 4.3

Figure 3 Percentage change in real public spending on services, by period and by function, UK, 2007/08 to 2014/15

Figure 3 Percentage change in real public spending on services, by period and by function, UK, 2007/08 to 2014/15

Source : Hills et al. (2016a) Figure 14.1 (original calculations based on HM Treasury, 2015, Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses)

Notes:
(1) Real terms figures are the nominal figures adjusted to 2014-15 price levels using GDP deflators from the Office for National Statistics (released 30 June 2015)/
(2) The 2014/15 decrease in ‘Education’ spending is due to a reduction in the estimated future non-repayment of student loans, and other modelling changes.

Figure 4 Growth in real net current spending on adult social care and population estimated by age group: 1997/98 to 2013/14, England

Figure 4 Growth in real net current spending on adult social care and population estimated by age group: 1997/98 to 2013/14, England

Source : Burchardt and Obolenskaya (2016), Figure 9.1. Original data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (2014) and various ONS population estimates.

Table 2 Progress against three sets of indicators

Coalition impact Indicators

« Opportunity for All » indicators

« Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion » indicators

 

Trend from 2009/10 [2]

Trend from baseline to 2010 [1]

Trend from 2009/10 [2]

Long-term trend (10 years or so) to 2010

Trend from 2009/10 [2]

Better

38

47

25

26

16

Slightly better

5

3

No change

4

4

2

5

1

Mixed

1

3

Worse

6

6

8

15

7

Not available

2

1

24

4

20

Total

55

59

59

50

50

Sources : Hills et al. (2016a), Table 14.4: an update of Coalition indicators and Department for Work and Pensions Opportunity for All indicators, using data available to the end of 2014, and Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion reports from the New Policy Institute. For details, see Lupton, et al. (2015), Appendix.

Notes : 1. Baseline year is usually 1997 or 1998. For some indicators based on specific Labour’s initiatives or data that were not collected before Labour came to power, the baseline is later.
2. Depending on availability of data, trends are reported for years from 2009, 2009/10 or 2010 up to the last available time point.

Figure 5 Percentage change in household disposable income by income group due to policy changes 2010/11 to 2015/16 (compared base policies uprated using Consumer Prices Index)

Figure 5 Percentage change in household disposable income by income group due to policy changes 2010/11 to 2015/16 (compared base policies uprated using Consumer Prices Index)

Source : De Agostini, Hills, and Sutherland (2015)

Table 3 Proportion of people living in households below relative poverty line (before and after housing costs), 1997/98 to 2014/15, UK

 

Children

Working age

Pensioners

All

 

BHC

AHC

BHC

AHC

BHC

AHC

BHC

AHC

1997/98

27

33

15

20

25

29

20

24

1998/99

26

34

15

19

27

29

19

24

1999/00

26

33

15

20

25

28

19

24

2000/01

23

31

15

19

25

26

18

23

2001/02

23

31

15

19

25

26

18

23

2002/03

22

29

14

19

24

24

18

22

2003/04

22

28

14

19

23

20

18

21

2004/05

21

28

14

19

21

17

17

21

2005/06

22

30

15

20

20

16

17

21

2006/07

22

31

15

20

23

19

18

22

2007/08

23

31

15

21

22

18

18

22

2008/09

22

30

16

21

20

16

18

22

2009/10

20

30

16

22

18

15

17

22

2010/11

18

27

15

21

17

14

16

21

2011/12

18

27

15

21

16

13

16

21

2012/13

17

27

15

21

16

13

15

21

2013/14

17

28

14

21

16

14

15

21

2014/15

19

29

15

21

16

14

16

21

Change 2007/08 to 2014/15

-4

-1

0

0

-6

-4

-2

-1

Source : Department for Work and Pensions (2016)

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Notes

1 HM Treasury 2008; HM Government 2010.

2 The project was funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Nuffield Foundation and Trust for London and produced a number of research reports (http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/case/_new/research/Social_Policy_in_a_Cold_Climate/Programme_Reports_and_event_information.asp) and a book published by the Policy Press (https://policypress.co.uk/social-policy-in-a-cold-climate).

3 HM Government 2010: 7.

4 Chancellor’s speech introducing the 2010 Emergency Budget.

5 HM Government 2010: 7.

6 HM Government 2010.

7 For more details on the Labour’s record see Lupton et al. (2013)

8 To concentrate on public spending, the debt and deficit figures reported here exclude the effect of spending on public sector banks and other temporary financial interventions. But as explained in Lupton et al. (2015), reporting on debt and deficit in that way, although conventional, may be underplaying the effect that banking failure has had on subsequent public spending. For more details see Lupton et al. (2015).

9 Here spending areas refer to HM Treasury’s categorization of Public Expenditure into ‘functions’ within the Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses reporting, which are often used for analysis of spending in different areas of public services.

10 Author’s calculations based on figures in Table 4.3 in HM Treasury (2015)

11 Vizard and Obolenskaya, 2015; Vizard and Obolenskaya, 2016.

12 See Lupton et al. 2016b for more details.

13 See Lupton et al. 2016c for more details.

14 See Hills et al. 2016a for more details.

15 See Burchardt and Obolenskaya 2016 and also further in this paper.

16 See Burchardt and Obolenskaya 2016 for more details.

17 See Tunstall (2016) for more details.

18 A summary of Labour’s term can be found in Hills et al. 2016a and details in Lupton et al. (2013) as well as underlying work on each policy area over Labour period in working papers: <http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/case/_new/research/Social_Policy_in_a_Cold_Climate/Programme_Reports_and_event_information.asp>.

19 Author’s calculations based on Figure 9.3 in Burchardt and Obolenskaya (2016).

20 Vizard and Obolenskaya (2015); Vizard and Obolenskaya (2016).

21 Vizard and Obolenskaya (2016); ONS 2015.

22 Vizard and Obolenskaya (2013); Vizard and Obolenskaya (2015); Vizard and Obolenskaya (2016).

23 See Lupton et al. (2016b) for further details and explanations on school attainment.

24 The trends and data for these indicators are explored more fully in Lupton et al. (2015).

25 Hills et al. 2016a.

26 The results from the analysis by De Agostini et al. (2015) are discussed in Hills et al. (2016b)

27 De Agostini et al. (2015), Figure 3.6

28 Stewart and Roberts (2016)

29 Hills et al. (2016c)

30 See Lupton et al. (2016c) for details

31 Hill et al. (2016c)

32 Stewart and Obolenskaya (2016), p.55.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1 : Net public sector debt and deficit (excluding public sector banks), 1997/98 to 2014/15, UK
Crédits Source : ONS 2016 (data underlying Table 2).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/osb/docannexe/image/1920/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 40k
Titre Figure 2 Total spending on public services, GDP, and total spending on public services as a share of GDP (in 2014-15 prices), 1997/98 to 2014-15, UK
Crédits Source : HM Treasury (2015), Table 4.3
URL http://journals.openedition.org/osb/docannexe/image/1920/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 43k
Titre Figure 3 Percentage change in real public spending on services, by period and by function, UK, 2007/08 to 2014/15
Crédits Source : Hills et al. (2016a) Figure 14.1 (original calculations based on HM Treasury, 2015, Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/osb/docannexe/image/1920/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 48k
Titre Figure 4 Growth in real net current spending on adult social care and population estimated by age group: 1997/98 to 2013/14, England
Crédits Source : Burchardt and Obolenskaya (2016), Figure 9.1. Original data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (2014) and various ONS population estimates.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/osb/docannexe/image/1920/img-4.png
Fichier image/png, 50k
Titre Figure 5 Percentage change in household disposable income by income group due to policy changes 2010/11 to 2015/16 (compared base policies uprated using Consumer Prices Index)
Crédits Source : De Agostini, Hills, and Sutherland (2015)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/osb/docannexe/image/1920/img-5.png
Fichier image/png, 53k
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Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Polina Obolenskaya, « Social Policy in a Cold Climate : Spending, Policies and Outcomes since the Economic Crisis in the UK », Observatoire de la société britannique, 19 | 2017, 111-135.

Référence électronique

Polina Obolenskaya, « Social Policy in a Cold Climate : Spending, Policies and Outcomes since the Economic Crisis in the UK », Observatoire de la société britannique [En ligne], 19 | 2017, mis en ligne le 01 juin 2018, consulté le 22 juin 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/osb/1920 ; DOI : 10.4000/osb.1920

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Auteur

Polina Obolenskaya

Research officier au Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE), London School of Economics and Political Science

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Droits d’auteur

Observatoire de la société britannique

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