The underlying principle of the main public services which is popular is the principle that the service is supplied free to the user, and paid for by taxpayers. This is true of most healthcare, of most school education, and many social services. No political party with serious aspirations to govern either locally or nationally will challenge this popular base to much public service provision.
This does not mean that users of these services are all happy with what they get, or against improvement. It does not mean that because they are free to the user they have to be monopolies delivered by public officials. The Conservatives, the Coalition and Labour in government have made some moves to allowing charities and private sector companies to provide some of these services. There have also been limited moves to give users some choice.
In education Labour developed an Academy programme which has been taken further by the current government. They have added free schools. Parents and older schoolchildren value having some choice of school. The complaints I get as an MP are where a popular school has too few places, forcing some to go their second or third choice school. I rarely get complaints about the possibility of choice. The issue for the next election is how much further should we go in offering more choice? What other types of school should we permit? How can popular schools expand to provide the desired places?
In the NHS Labour let some contracts to private health suppliers to carry out certain operations and procedures where waiting lists were too long. Patients still received a free service, but at a with profit provider paid for by the NHS. This was broadly popular with patients, and did help reduce waiting lists in the areas targeted. How much more of this should we do? Should patients have more choice of GP, Consultant and hospital when they need treatment. How much should they be told about success rates and availability when sorting out their diagnosis and treatment? Was the big idea behind Choose and book a good one?
In social care Councils vary in their approaches, but many do understand the need to tailor care packages to individual needs, and to help people live for longer in their own homes with assistance before having to consider moving into a home. Is there enough choice and flexibility?
More choice should mean better value for money as well as a service tailored to individual needs and preferences. Having a variety of providers will help deliver value and drive innovation, two things monopolies are usually poor at achieving.