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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 August 2006, 11:59 GMT 12:59 UK
The best public services in the world
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Newsnight is running a series of films looking at the best public services in the world, based on your suggestions. The first in the series features Cuba's health service.

We want you to tell us where governments have got it right on health care, transport, education, criminal justice and all the other areas where those in power provide excellence for those that pay their wages.

We also want to know what you think of our choices. Below is a selection of your choices for prized public services, the email form is at the bottom. So send us your views - you'd be providing a public service.

CLICK HERE TO SEND US YOUR COMMENTS


In New Zealand, for every superstore there has to be eight little shops set up in competition. Shops share the car park and people have the choice to keep stores competitive
Penny Griffiths
I am very surprised to see that Belgium has been nominated in the best general public services category. I've been living in Brussels for 3 years now and I have to say that the public services are appalling. The bins are picked up only twice a week (once a week in some areas), the city only has two underground lines, trams and buses are scarce, and the police are practically non-existent. The infamous "Place Flagey", a central square in the heart of Brussels, has been a site evocative of ground zero for the past 6 years - I pass by that square everyday to get to my office and not once have I seen any work being carried out. The state of the roads in Brussels and the motorways around the country is a disaster: suffice to say it's a bumpy ride (not surprising so many people own 4x4s)... And I could go on with examples such as these... I find all this unacceptable considering the amount of taxes one has to pay here: almost 50% of my salary goes the Belgian administration.
François Arnaud, Brussels

The Dutch railway system is great, as Michael Hall says, it's just EUR 4 to get from the airport to central Amsterdam on a regular, punctual, clean and efficient train. Last time I went to London, the Heathrow Express cost me £25, and I think it's gone up since then. Interestingly, though, the Dutch complain incessantly about the deterioration in the quality of the service! The Dutch police are very efficient and pretty customer-focused, I've had my mobile pinched twice and they've dealt with me very professionally each time. The Dutch healthcare system is also excellent, whilst I pay EUR 1400 per year for my private insurance; I get superb service for that money. I was in and out of A&E in under 40 minutes on a Sunday night after cutting my hand, and had at one point 2 doctors and 1 nurse attending to me. When I needed my gall-bladder removed a couple of years ago, the hospital doctor apologised to me because I had to wait all of two weeks for the operation. I have nothing but the greatest respect for the principle of the NHS but why can't the reality work a bit better?
Lucie Hime, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Penny Griffiths from Surbiton has to be joking. I came to NZ over 60 years ago, it has gone backwards, no free education, no free health care, no rail service (except in Wellington where the government sits) no decent bus transport so huge congestion on the roads. In Auckland workers leave home at 6.30 am to get into the city to their workplace by 9.00 am, we have 3 times the annual rainfall of London falling in Auckland, top temperature with humidity of 28C, pensioners get NO concessions and can pay 15 pounds to visit their GP. We have loads of empty shops because of supermarkets and malls. Did Penny really come to NZ or did she just dream that up? Many of those who come decide to go back. Wish I could too, Brits should stop moaning.
Jill Jeffs, Auckland N Z

I now spend much of my time in Hungary. My partner, who is Hungarian, has been told by the authorities here that they could sort out her pension entitlement in 5 working days if they could get a reply to the enquiry they sent to the DWP in February. (Our emails to the DWP are also being studiously ignored.) So, a civil service that knows its job and does it would be a good start. The other big thing is a good public transport system which is affordable. OK it is not always as comfortable as it might be but it is efficient and cheap. As a result, it is widely used as an alternative to the car and the country is a lot healthier and the towns a lot less congested for it.
Paul D, New Milton, UK - currently in Budapest

Here in the province of Quebec, a new parental regime has been introduced lately in order to rise the birth ratio, since it was one of the lowest in the Western world. As a result, every mother now gets 75% of her salary 2 months before the birth and for a full year after the baby is born. The father also gets 2 months off with 75% of his salary, to be taken whenever he wants to do so. Obviously, such initiatives cost the taxpayers money : we are the most heavily taxed people in North America, something that outsiders seem to find terrible. But when you consider the benefits, it is well worth the high taxes!
Andreanne Bertrand, Montreal, Quebec

Tertiary education. The easiest way to compare different countries' education systems is to look at the flow of students and faculty across borders. The winner of this contest is clearly the US, with Canada and the UK a very distant second. While the UK is clearly better than most of europe, we continue to lose academics and graduate students to the US.
Simon, Poole

Every kind of service in Japan seems outstanding. I have visited so many country in the world and Japan is one of the most impressive place. The transport system is always accurate, especially Shinkansen is unbelievable. The medical system seems very advanced there, almost too many doctors therefore they have to compete to give a better service to patients. The education system makes people respect each other and their moral seems higher than ours, low crime rate and clean everywhere in Japan. We tend to learn so many things from U.S.A., perhaps it is a time to learn many things from Japan.
Mayumi Chapman, London

I've been visiting the Netherlands for 12 years and lived in Amsterdam for a year. My experiences of rail travel in Holland are vastly more positive than here in the UK. Their public rail system is incredibly efficient and what's more, awfully cheap. The rail fares in England under privatisation are extortionate. I won't pretend familiarity with all of the pertinent issues but why can't the British government just look, learn and copy the Dutch system, which is so clearly superior? Whatever they're doing, we ought to be.
Michael Hall, London

Japan's Shinkansen or Bullet Train service - just incredible accuracy and planning. Your ticket tells you where on the platform to stand, the train arrives almost to the second, the doors open aligned to the platform markers and you walk straight to your reserved seat. An airplane like interior and faultless stewardess service makes the speed of the trains seem almost normal! Technology and planning at its best.
Kevin Bailey, Saint Asaph

In New Zealand, they get planning for supermarkets right - so by every superstore there has to be eight little shops set up in competition to the big store, things like a butcher, baker, chemist or newsagent and if one of these stores closes because of monopolistic competition, then the superstore has to close until the shop opens again. This way little shops share the car park and people have a choice to keep stores competitive but not mess up quality and value. The bus services in New Zealand ran for the public until 8.30 then for schools until 9AM then back to the public. It segregated the rush hour and cut it down. To spread out the traffic the town was smaller in Wellington but here it worked and workers got to work before 8.30 or a little after 9. (This allows mothers to see the family to school before they are expected to start work) lots of benefits in less pollution. I saw this in 1999 - I would love an up date. I think the shops were also true in Tasmania. It will be difficult to put in retroactively now all the superstores are built but it could be done, as a customer I would like to see it.
Penny Griffiths, Surbiton, Surrey

Rather than concerning ourselves with what is happening in other countries, wouldn't it be more productive to reflect on how public services operated in the UK prior to the era of CCT and the incursion of the private sector into the provision of public services?
Steven, Orpington
For a public transport system that epitomises what public transport should be, take a visit to Berlin. For a reasonable global pass you can use the buses, trams, over-ground trains and underground trains. Everywhere is accessible all of the time within minutes. It really is a system that London should aim to match. The suburban S-Bahn covers the town much like the underground U-Bahn, cutting traffic jams out of the equation. But traffic jams are a non-issue in the first place thanks to the widespread use of the system. Trams and buses take care of the short stops. It is a joy to use and so easy to get to places!
Jamie Guthrie, Halifax

Basically we are the bottom of the pile at most things. The Middle Eastern countries seem to have an excellent free health service, and they also know how to deal with criminals. Unlike here, where we praise the criminal and hurt the victim. TIME UP LABOUR!
Adam Richardson-Foster, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex

Regarding crime, I have a friend from Northern Sri Lanka who says that where he came from the police force was non-existent. It is the community which takes a stance, ie when a crime is committed the whole community knows about it and chases and catches whoever has committed an offence. I'm not sure of the procedure after that, I assume they take the offender to the police!
Mary Mollison, London

My sister-in-law lives in Toulouse France - she recently had cataracts removed from her eyes; from her visit to her GP to the completion of the procedure took eight weeks
Jim O'Brien, Liverpool
Rather than concerning ourselves with what is happening in other countries, wouldn't it be more productive to reflect on how public services operated in the UK prior to the era of CCT and the incursion of the private sector into the provision of public services? The private sectors' main motivation is profit - not providing accountable public services. We need to return to an era when our public services are provided by democratically elected bodies using directly employed staff. Is it any wonder that fewer people are participating in elections, especially at a local level, when all public authorities are doing is handing out contracts to private sector providers.
Steven, Orpington, Kent

The way in which French railways are subsidised and paid for may not suit everyone but we should aspire to creating infrastructure projects of such importance.
Richard Middleton, Redditch
Our son recently visited NY USA. I asked him if he felt safe knowing the reputation of this city. He said he did as there was a huge number of police on the streets. My sister-in-law lives in Toulouse France - she recently had cataracts removed from her eyes. From her visit to her GP to the completion of the procedure took eight weeks. Although I blame phoney Tony and his government for many of our present problems, many of our new laws cannot be policed with present police levels. And the NHS is run by people who are not as good as they should be. If we want better public services in Britain we are going to have to pay for them, and you know what that means. Thank you.
Jim O'Brien, Liverpool

Consider the NHS in Cuba: one of the highest doctor-to-patient ratios in the world, all nationalised and attracting rich tourists from abroad to seek medical attention there instead of in their home countries
Luke Lasagne, Bristol
French Railways - We see how determined visionary leadership produce technologically advanced trains and track that achieves the goal of a high quality service that is a source of pride to the French people. The way in which French railways are subsidised and paid for may not suit everyone but we should aspire to creating infrastructure projects of such importance.
Richard Middleton, Redditch

Consider the NHS in Cuba: one of the highest doctor-to-patient ratios in the world, all nationalised and attracting rich tourists from abroad to seek medical attention there instead of in their home countries. The Cuban NHS is truly enviable. Infant mortality is half that in the US and the leading cause of death in Cuba is accidents in the workplace, rather than disease. The Cuban NHS says we don't have to privatise our public health care like Blair is currently doing.
Luke Lasagne, Bristol

Best practice existed here in Britain in the 1950's before politicians interfered
Gerard Stevens, Ceredigion
Education - I believe the Nordic countries have a good system. Fundamental to this is the teacher-pupil ratios. Spend the money on smaller classes. Law and order - let your yes be yes and your no be no. Three years means three years. 10 years means 10 years, moreover extra years should be added to the sentence for bad behaviour and not the other way around. As to where this is practiced in the world I know not. The health service - I believe the UK is top of the pops.
Mr T Ash, Nottingham

Best practice existed here in Britain in the 1950's before politicians interfered. My solution would be that all prospective MPs should have at least 25 years' experience of work unemployment or childcare and be aged over 50 before they can be election candidates. We don't need inexperienced boys or girls (who couldn't run the proverbial whelk stall) ruining Britain. This applies to present day leadership. In fact what is needed is a Pensioners Party and pensioner PM to put the country back on the tracks lines.
Gerard Stevens, Ceredigion


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SEE ALSO
Keeping Cuba healthy
01 Aug 06 |  Newsnight Home


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