Most people want their governments to run efficiently, so as not to waste taxpayers’ money. But there is a problem with ensuring there is just enough resource for essentials and no more: when something goes wrong, there is no capacity to cover it. Whether dealing with unexpected staff absence or a major national crisis, resilient public services need some 'slack' to deal with the unforeseen.

The Blavatnik School’s Government Outcomes Lab (GO Lab) has released a paper making the case for rewiring public services for resilience in order to learn lessons from the pandemic.

“In recent years, the UK Government (and the Treasury in particular) has adopted efficiency as its public spending North Star”, says Nigel Ball, until recently Executive Director at GO Lab. “But viewing efficiency as the sole guiding principle for public spending can undermine resilience. Even in good times, this is bad for delivery, but it can be catastrophic when things go wrong.”

The report's authors, Nigel Ball and Loic Menzies, argue that a flawed understanding of ‘waste’ is a key barrier to prevention and resilience.

‘Efficiency and Resilience: How can we adjust the dial?’ sets out proposals gathered from over 20 policy experts and senior civil servants, including former Chief Secretary to the Treasury David Gauke, former advisor to Michael Gove Sam Freedman, and poverty campaigner Helen Barnard.

Efficiency and Resilience: How can we adjust the dial?’ is published on 18 May 2023 by the Government Outcomes Lab at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, and Cambridge Assessment Network, part of Cambridge University Press and Assessment.