In the news: Sir Tony Atkinson

July 16, 2004

Sir Tony Atkinson, warden of Nuffield College, Oxford, releases the interim report of his review into the measurement of public sector output and productivity on Monday.

The review, commissioned in December by Len Cook, the National Statistician, will come just days after Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, announced the loss of more than 84,000 Civil Service jobs in his spending review. Mr Brown said they were due largely to efficiencies created by a £6 billion investment in technology.

The spending review report states that reliable measures of public-sector output are crucial in gaining an accurate sense of how productivity is changing, to ensure the right policy decisions and to improve accountability.

Sir Tony's interim report will set out a proposed framework for measuring government output in the national accounts. He has focused on improving output measurement in four spending areas: health, education, public order and safety, and social protection. The final report will be published in January. He said the task had proved intellectually more challenging than expected - "but I hope it can lead to changes in the way things things are done".

He was previously professor of political economy at Cambridge University, and he has served on a number of government inquiries including the Royal Commission on the Distribution of Income and Wealth.

While Sir Tony plans to step down as warden of Nuffield, a graduate college, after more than a decade, he will continue in academe as a researcher in political economy.

He is concerned that graduate studies have been absent from the debate over top-up fees and fears financial concerns could see numbers of enrolments fall at a time when employers are increasingly looking for postgraduate qualifications.

But he is more positive about changes that will make it easier for graduates from other European nations to study in the UK.

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