By Chris Miller
Miller’s volume is a comprehensive account of how the Labour
government has changed the “welfare settlement” since achieving
power in 1997. He describes how the substance of Labour policy
emerged as it wrestled with the social legacy of Thatcherism under
the influence of communitarian ideas.
He works through the changes made in the public and voluntary
sectors, the difficulties inherent in “partnership” and the
ambivalent nature of the meaning of “community” in welfare
provision. He also probes the complexities of working with service
users in the policy process and puts the notion of new public
management under scrutiny.
Drawing on his own considerable involvement in policy debates over
many years, Miller describes the changes since 1997 and points out
where policy is contradictory or has fallen short of the claims
made for it. The central tenet of his book is that policy matters –
how welfare policy is constructed and delivered at local level is
critical to its effectiveness. While at times the reader would wish
for further anchoring of his argument in specific services, the
author’s broad grip on the components shaping those services is
cogent and assured.
John Pierson is senior lecturer, Institute of Applied
Social Studies, Staffordshire University.