A fantastic new report on this subject area has just been published by CentreForum.  You can read a short summary of it online here. Or you can download the pdf of it here.

Alison Wolf is one of the best and most original thinkers on the public sector and education.   This is not a piece of blatant pro-free market dogma; she is someone with a deep understanding of how the public sector really does work, and the perverse consequences that can follow decisions which override local considerations. In the next few years, policy makers who are passionate about providing good public services, but also need to recognise fiscal constraints, will need to think harder about how things are currently done.  The era of the shopping list is over.  This sort of bold thinking is a really excellent start.


13 thoughts on “Brilliant publication on the social and economic costs of national wage bargaining

  1. What did you think of the “debate” on Today? Shortly after 7, if you want to look it up. She was making reasonable points against a trade unionist who appeared to be promoting a labour theory of value, and generally not makin much sense. I shall read the report with interest.
    Things were a little confused by John Humphries claiming it’s more expensive to live in the North than the South East. Didn’t sound like he really cared through the debate, either.

  2. I missed that particular Professor on the Today Programme but have just listened to her piece on i-player. (It was programme in which Professors threatened to crowd out the rest of humanity.)

    “For poorer regions, inflexible public sector salary scales do damage in another way: they handicap the private sector,” she declares.

    It was in sharp contrast to the interview which I think was with Professor Carol Williams on a report by the National Inequality Panel, entitled An Anatomy of Economic Inequality in the UK, a summary of which can be found here:


    Professor Williams was suggesting minutes earlier in the programme that there is no evidence in poorer regions of the public sector crowding out the private sector. There was in fact evidence of crowding in.

    Anyone who has tried to build and maintain a private enterprise in such poorer regions knows that these economies and therefore their own chances of creating wealth and employment depend on public sector expenditure. The economies are so frail even at the height of the recent boom.

    The programme then went on to feature an interview of both Professor Richard Wilkinson and Michael Gove, which illustrated the use to which Gove and Cameron (who it would seem reads Wilkinson’s The Spirit Level every night) are putting his research. Those who have never heard a Tory campaign strongly against inequality should listen here:


    Wolf’s line stuck out as so London-centric, that I thought I could here that good old Yorkshire man, Richard Wainwright, spinning in his grave.

    If Paul is willing to review her pamphlet, perhaps he might consider contrasting it with these two other views.

    1. Those are important points. I am not sufficiently expert to know the answer on the crowding in/crowding out thing, but I hope Paul C’s expertise will fill in the gap

      We still haven’t printed it yet – it may be over a week or so.

  3. Prof Williams was in fact speaking at 6.20 am on an unfortunately unnamed report from Manchester University’s Centre for Research.

    1. They should have more money to do so. While authorities in less affluent expensive places should have less. But, sure, setting up the system would be politically v difficult, sure . . .

  4. This isn’t entirely new though. There was a report about a year ago that pointed out the effects of the national NHS pay scale on staffing levels in hospitals. The indicator used was survival levels from heart attacks I think. They go down in richer areas. The link was made to greater use of agency nurses (ie, less continuity of care?) as what’s good money from hte NHS in Gateshead is rather less so in Surrey.

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