This symposium of Public Administration explores the impact of the ‘Great Financial Crisis’ (GFC) on public services provision and delivery. This introductory article discusses the political and media ‘framing’ and ‘counter-framing’ of what the GFC means for reforming public service bargains. The dominant frame is that service reform and cutbacks to provision are inevitable and unavoidable. This is contrasted with the counter-frame that the GFC is being used as ‘cover’ for ‘ideologically driven’ reforms that policymakers would have wanted to introduce even if the crash had not occurred. Reform processes, however, are highly context-specific and frames and counter-frames are rhetorical and subjective. They emanate from deep-seated yet fragile assumptions about the economic, social, and moral capacities of markets and governments, and are therefore best understood as ‘mechanisms of hope’ rather than distinct and rational policy prescriptions.