BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK: Politics  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Tuesday, 16 July, 2002, 13:07 GMT 14:07 UK
Blair warns ministers over public services
Happy now - but some say plans are a gamble
Labour will be held "heavily to account" at the next election if it fails to deliver improved public services, Tony Blair has admitted.

He also conceded that money had only been reaching frontline service for the past couple of years.

The prime minister was speaking during a special session of a Commons committee on his role.


If public services don't improve by the next election, people will hold us heavily to account

Tony Blair
The warning follows the government spending review unveiled on Monday by Chancellor Gordon Brown in which he pledged to spend an extra 61bn on services.

Education Secretary Estelle Morris will set out how she will spend a 15bn increase for schools and colleges later on Tuesday.

Earlier, Mr Brown insisted that the UK can afford the increase amid doubts about the economic outlook.


One of the key things which is wrong with this government's approach is the extent to which they have centralised everything

Michael Howard
Speaking amid continuing nervousness in the money markets, he insisted that his plans for education and health were fully costed and were not a gamble.

The spending review has come under fire from the Tories, who say it is not accompanied by plans for radical reforms of public services.

But Mr Blair said the government's policy on public service reform had been "paying dividends, but it takes a long time to turn around a failing public service".

He said: "If public services don't improve by the next election, people will hold us heavily to account."

Mistake

"I think you will find in the coming couple of years that people do recognise considerable improvements on the ground," he said.

"Sure, there is a great deal to do but I think it would be a mistake to say nothing has happened."

Mr Brown toured the radio and TV studios on Tuesday insisting that having created a low-inflation, low-debt economy, he could afford to invest heavily in the UK's ailing public services.

Gamble?

"People are complaining it's too much, a huge gamble," he said.

Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown: Plans are fully costed
"I think we have got the balance right. It is a huge increase ... but equally we are demanding that standards are met.

"It is reform in return for resources."

The problems being experienced on Wall Street were in many ways the fallout from a series of accounting scandals in the US such as with the collapsed energy giant Enron.

The chancellor said when there was uncertainty it was time to ask some fundamental questions about our own economy.

Vigilant Brown?

"Is there low inflation? Inflation is at its lowest for 30 years.

"Are public finances in order? Yes.

"Is the economy growing? Yes it's growing."

But he added: "I am not complacent, you have got to be vigilant. We will be vigilant all the time about what's going on in the economy."

But Shadow Chancellor Michael Howard attacked the government for its "failure" over public services.

Detail

The Tories would go into the next election with radical plans while Labour would only have the "same old policies".

Michael Howard
Mr Howard said the Tories would be more radical
Mr Howard refused to be drawn on either the detail of Conservative policies or whether his party would stick to Labour's spending plans.

That prompted Mr Brown to accuse the Tories of being "more extreme than ever".

But Mr Howard said: "One of the key things which is wrong with this government's approach is the extent to which they have centralised everything.

"The alternative is to give local people a real say, to let teachers teach, doctors and nurses set about treating the people they want to treat without having to meet targets imposed by Whitehall.

Matthew Taylor
Taylor: Spending review was 'not reform, it's more control'
"If you are serious about this, what you do is set up local structures with local accountability so that the people who provide these services locally are accountable to the people they serve."

Matthew Taylor, for the Liberal Democrats, said he welcomed the spending commitments for education but said that it ought to be down to local people to decide how their schools and hospitals were performing.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Laura Trevelyan
"He's trying to reconnect his government with the public by making himself more accountable"
The BBC's Vicki Young
"Mr Blair says that problems started in opposition"
The government's plans for future spending are published on 15 July

Key stories

At the sharp end

Analysis

TALKING POINT

AUDIO VIDEO
See also:

16 Jul 02 | UK Education
16 Jul 02 | UK Politics
15 Jul 02 | UK Politics
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


E-mail this story to a friend



© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes