Press release

Prime Minister sets out vision for a “smarter state”

Ahead of the Spending Review, David Cameron will make the case for a smarter state with better services in a keynote speech today.

  • Keynote speech ahead of the Spending Review to address the need for difficult decisions to rebalance the economy
  • PM makes case for a smarter state with better services and better value for the taxpayer

The Prime Minister will use a keynote speech today to argue that despite difficult decisions ahead to rebalance the economy in the forthcoming Spending Review, the government will continue with an ambitious plan to improve services and deliver a “smarter state” that works for taxpayers.

At the heart of his ‘one nation’ approach will be progressive reform to key public services, greater devolution of power and increased efficiency in public spending.

The Prime Minister will highlight key examples where action will be taken, including a greater emphasis on early intervention with the expansion of the Troubled Families programme to 400,000 families, more integration of services including new legislation to help the police, fire and ambulance operations collaborate and up to 38 local areas under consideration for proposed devolution deals.

The Prime Minister will say:

Spreading opportunity, increasing social mobility, helping people get on – these aims run through this government like letters through a stick of rock. Central to all this is being the government that finishes the job of turning around our economy and clearing the deficit.

But what we are showing is that deficit reduction and an opportunity society are not alternatives. They can complement each other. Because with a smarter state, we can spend less and deliver more.

If we make the right decisions, then far from getting in the way of our progressive goals, the changes we make can, in many cases, actually improve the services that government delivers – and help people.

It’s not unlike business. Businesses are constantly adapting and changing, using new technology or new methods of delivery, to improve both their products and reduce their costs. I’m not suggesting we should run government exactly like a business. I just mean that if we use their insights, we can help develop a smarter state.

So let me set out some of the principles that will guide that state.

One: reform. What energises many markets are new insurgent companies, who break monopolies and bring in new ways of doing things. We can apply this thinking to government. So many of our country’s efforts to extend opportunity have been undermined by a tolerance of state failure. Children in care and prisons being two standout areas. Reform – be it breaking state monopolies, bringing in new providers, or allowing new ways of doing things - can cut the costs of these failures both economically and socially and help advance the progressive causes of spreading opportunity and enhancing social mobility that we should all care about.

Two: devolution. The best businesses would never shy away from allowing their customers to shape the way they improve their services. If we are bold enough, government can go one better by actually putting many of those services in the hands of local people. It is also a proven reality that money spent closer to people is often money spent wiser – so we can really deliver more for less.

Three: efficiency. Businesses are always looking at ways to streamline their functions so they can become more effective. I would argue it’s an imperative – a moral imperative – for government to do the same. When money is tight, it’s simply unforgiveable to waste taxpayers’ money.

More than that, efficient government can actually help with our progressive goals. Opening up contracts to small businesses spreads entrepreneurship and drives innovation. Closing down government offices and releasing government land can help build more homes and spread home ownership. Indeed, across the spectrum, there are opportunities for us to make a difference not just to people’s pockets but to people’s lives. For example, I believe the creation of the Government Digital Service is one of the great unsung triumphs of the last Parliament.

A whole series of things that used to involve complicated paperwork can now be done online – from registering to vote to paying your taxes. Part of the issue is our mentality. When a business uses technology to deliver more for less, it’s regarded as a good thing. But when government does it, it’s too often just badged as cuts.

It’s as though good business is somehow bad government. This attitude has to change.

So I believe that by focusing on these core principles – of reform, devolution and efficiency – we can deliver better, more progressive government that will meet the challenge of living within our means and at the same time help us to extend opportunity to all.

The Prime Minister will set out 3 key strands to a smarter approach to government:

Reforming public services

The government will look to go further by devolving more responsibility for early intervention and tackling social problems. The Prime Minister will commit to more ambitious reform of social services and child protection with departments, local authorities and charities to working together more collaboratively. There will be a clear message to any local authority failing its children: transform the way you provide services, or those services will be taken over by non-profit trusts.

More devolution

The government will take this agenda to the next level, with confirmation that 38 local areas across England have put in proposals for devolution deals. This could see major devolution of spending and powers over transport, education and health across the country. The first wave of new agreements will be signed in the coming months.


The government will continue to streamline more services. Legislation will be introduced to enable the police and fire services to combine back-office functions, IT and procurement to save money. And, where there is local demand, Police and Crime Commissioners will be able to take control of fire and rescue services, with the Mayor taking control in London.

The government will also accelerate the sale of assets that are no longer needed and look at ways to release more public sector land for housing.

Published 11 September 2015