POLITICS
11/09/2015 14:22 BST | Updated 11/09/2015 14:59 BST

David Cameron Calls For Major Public Sector Reform And 'Smarter State', Announcing Overhaul Of Prisons And Emergency Services

David Cameron has claimed he can "spend less and deliver more" as he signalled a massive shake-up of public services involving merging 999 services, closing prisons and accelerating development of Government land.

The Prime Minister today gave a speech trumpeting what he calls a "smarter state" of "better value for taxpayers, but better services too" as he made a swathe of announcements to make the public sector more ruthlessly "efficient".

He likened the reforms to "insurgent companies" that "break monopolies and bring in new ways of doing things".

"We can apply this thinking to Government," he said. "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."

david cameron

David Cameron in Leeds today: "So many of our country’s efforts to extend opportunity have been undermined by a tolerance of state failure."

LISTEN: David Cameron Caught On Microphone Slagging Off Yorkshire

Critics will seize on the remarks as a sign the Tories are ideologically obsessed with the slashing the size of the state, though he dismissed the notion that this should be "an end in itself".

Speaking in Leeds, Mr Cameron, while also launching a fierce attack on Labour, said the principles should be "not unlike" those held by businesses.

He said: "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."

He claimed the reforms would be about more than tackling the deficit, claiming inequality declined, crime fell and unemployment was tackled in the last five years.

On prisons, he said there were "few areas of Government where we tolerate such failure", pointing to nearly half of adult prisoners re-offending within one year of release.

"A prison sentence is a punishment, yes. But it should also be a time for purposeful activity," he said.

"So we will look at selling off our inner-city prisons which are old, dark and overcrowded and building new, effective prisons which are not just safe and secure but contain facilities that will lower reoffending rates."

Prison governors could be given more autonomy and "charities and others" could be invited to bid work with offenders.

Charlie Taylor, the former Chief Executive of the National College of Teaching and Leadership, has been asked to review the youth justice system.

He announced reforms to let police, fire and ambulance services to "work more closely together to save money and improve their effectiveness", with Police and Crime Commissioners being able to take control of the fire and rescue services.

He said: "Right now we have a situation where in most towns, the police, fire and ambulance services all have different premises, back offices, IT policies and systems, and procurement policies despite all their work being closely related."

Mr Cameron also hinted fast-tracking land development as selling off land to developers "takes a lot of time".

"Is it not time to cut out the middleman?," he said. "Should government not just contract out development on this land and get building on it straight away?"

He also spelled out more regional devolution beyond the much-vaunted Northern Powerhouse plan, claiming "money spent closer is often money spent wise".

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