People are concerned as never before with the deterioration of the NHS, the quality and safety of rail services and the standard of education. With Labour’s promises of big improvements, its controversial solutions in some areas and the debate that is developing inside the Liberal Democrats, public services are sure to stay at the top of the political agenda.
Ever since Joseph Chamberlain, as Mayor of Birmingham, purchased two gas companies and a water works, established public transport and embarked on slum clearance programmes, Liberals have claimed a proud record as innovative champions of public services.
Is there a Liberal tradition in the public services that we should carry on today? Was the work of Chamberlain and others an essential aspect of Liberalism? Or was it simply local politics?