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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

How Do We Pay: Funding public services in Europe

The aim of the pamphlet is to bring together some basic information about the charges that those using particular public services pay across a number of services in some EU countries.

The reform of public services is high on the political agenda in every EU country. Political debate and electoral outcomes are heavily influenced by questions relating to the responsiveness of public services to the needs of users, the role of the private sector in providing services and how fairly distributed the benefits of those services are. Central to these debates is the issue of the funding of the public services, its adequacy, who bears the costs and whether new forms of funding can be found.

This pamphlet is a contribution to that debate. It focuses on the question of how we pay for public services in the EU and specifically the balance to be struck between collective funding through taxation and individual funding through the contribution made by user charges.

The aim of the pamphlet is to bring together some basic information about the charges that those using particular public services pay across a number of services in some EU countries. It is not meant to be an exhaustive survey of the incidence of user charges in the EU. The information presented is designed to help illustrate the issues that need to be considered when assessing the role that could be played by user charges. Most importantly it tries to apply one key principle in deciding when charges might be used, namely that their use should help advance the attainment of key public policy outcomes.