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Did Labour's social policy programme work?

03/07/2013 08:18 (294 Day 12:34 minutes ago)

The FINANCIAL -- Labour’s increased social spending delivered major improvements to services and social outcomes but wider inequalities persisted, according to a new report from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).



Public spending went up by 60 per cent and from 39.5 to 47.4 per cent of GDP; but until the crisis hit after 2008, spending levels were unexceptional by historic UK and international standards, and national debt levels were lower than when Labour took office, shows the report.

Most of the extra spending went mainly on improving services. For example there were new hospitals, schools, equipment and ICT, 48,000 extra FTE teachers, 3500 new children’s centres, and more doctors and nurses.   Access and quality in public services improved - for example 90 per cent of social housing was brought up to a decent standard. The “gap” in the infant mortality rate between routine/manual groups and the whole population had dropped by 10 per cent in 2008-10, according to LSE.

Other outcomes showed little progress. For example, in health, there were increases in the life expectancy gap between the areas with the worst health and deprivation and the England average.  Obesity continued to increase.  At GCSE, the socio-economic gap closed only very slightly at the level of five GCSEs including English and maths.  The gap in educational outcomes between looked-after children and their peers widened on some measures.  

“There is a myth that Labour spent a lot and achieved nothing.  The evidence shows that outcomes improved and gaps narrowed on virtually all the socio-economic indicators that were targeted.  Labour left the Coalition with a legacy of more equal outcomes on many measures, less poverty and expanded public services.  However, their reliance on the labour market to improve the situation for working age people with no children did not pay off – some outcomes for this group got worse,” said Professor Ruth Lupton of the University of Manchester and CASE, coordinating report author.


“In a very different economic climate, Labour set out an agenda to raise outcomes overall, narrow socio-economic gaps and modernise public services. Many services were improved, and it achieved a striking narrowing of inequalities between different age groups and across the life cycle.  Nevertheless, when Labour left power  there had been no real change in wider income inequalities and parts of its vision remained unrealised,” said Professor John Hills, CASE Director.



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