Targets? What targets? Change and Continuity in the performance regime in Whitehall

We were told, when the new Coalition Government came to be, that it would put an end to “New Labour targetry”. The use of targets for public sector performance had become a bête noir of both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in Opposition and they apparently couldn’t wait to scrap the whole lot once they were in power.

And indeed they did immediately scrap the Public Service Agreements (30) and Departmental Strategic Objectives (95 for the Departments we have counted).

But for the past two decades I have had this annoying habit – I don’t believe Governments, especially about these sorts of things. So I have done what I usually do and gone and counted. And the answers are surprising, even to me. Continue reading

Co-Evolution of the Development of Public Administration, Democracy and Capitalism

Philipp Krause has raised some very interesting issues about the development of public finance institutions in emerging economies (which are equally applicable to wider public administration capacity development in emerging countries). Continue reading

G4S and rethinking public services: going beyond ‘one size fits all’

guest post by John Alford and Janine O’Flynn

 The G4S fiasco surrounding security for the London Olympics has sparked debate about the problems of contracting out. In a new book, John Alford and Janine O’Flynn argue for a broader approach to utilizing external providers as the key to avoiding or at least minimizing the pitfalls Continue reading

policy@manchester launches

Public policy community comes together

12 Jul 2012

The University of Manchester has established Policy@Manchester as a network bringing together a range of academics working in a variety of public policy areas. Continue reading

The Civil Service Reform Plan – Mostly Old Wine in Very Old, but relabelled, Bottles.

The Civil Service Reform Plan announced yesterday mostly rehashes old solutions, some sensible, others of dubious worth – but mostly renames stuff and proclaims it as if it was ‘new’. The cry of ‘cultural change’, for example, towards greater managerial responsibility and accountability has been repeated in Whitehall at least since Rayner and FMI, if not Fulton. If it still hasn’t happened after 5 decades (depending on where you count from) it raises rather fundamental issues, surely? Continue reading

Surpluses, Budgets, Parliament, and Accountability Down Under (Australia): some random thoughts

I am in Australia as “Accenture-Crawford School Distinguished Visiting Professor” at Australian National University in Canberra. Many thanks to both Accenture and the excellent Crawford School of Public Policy.

I’ve been doing a fascinating series of meetings, seminars and lectures with academics and senior public servants from across the Australian federal (commonwealth) government. I have had generous access to the ‘corridors of power’ including with a wide range of Prime Ministers and Cabinet (PM&C) officials, Department of Finance and Deregulation (DOFR) officials, and the Clerk to the Senate. And many academic colleagues have been helping me get my head around Australian Federal Government procedures.

Here’s a few, fairly random, thoughts about it: Continue reading

The Class Ceiling – Posh Boys (and Girls) Still Rule OK

When Tory MP Nadine Dorries described her Prime Minister and Chancellor as ”two arrogant posh boys” it prompted me to start thinking about my own experiences of class in British society over the past half century.

My conclusion – there is, still, a ”class ceiling” in British society. True, it is weaker than it once was but it still exists, especially in some of our major institutions. Continue reading

Jeremy Hunt (DCMS) debacle raises again the issue of Civil Service Reform

This week saw an extraordinary outburst from the most recently retired Head of the Civil Service, Lord Gus O’Donnell. He said, on the BBC, “”When governments go through difficult patches you are looking for who you can blame. The issue comes up of ‘well, let’s try and blame the Civil Service’. It does not usually work and I don’t think it will work this time either.”

Now I am not one of those who would blame the Government’s current ills on the Civil Service, or at any rate not entirely. Most of what has happened to them has been because of crass and rushed policy-making on the hoof, without proper thought and analysis. Certainly sometimes Civil Servants have failed to say “no, Minister” when they should have, but Ministers have only themselves to blame when things go wrong. Ministers who allow official or unofficial advisers to run amok, as in Defence or now DCMS, can hardly blame the Civil Service for not stopping them (even if the CS should have).

But that does not exonerate the Civil Service. I have been saying for years that our supposedly “Rolls Royce” Civil Service has deep flaws in its institutional make-up. Continue reading

The Public Government of Public Money – not yet, not by a long way

 

Three decades ago two American academics published a superb analysis of the way in which British government’s made finance decisions provocatively entitled “The Private Government of Public Money” (Heclo and Wildavsky, 1981). Has the Coalition accidentally given birth to the ‘Public Government of Public Money?’ Continue reading

Saint GP. Why have GPs been elevated to special status in the health debate?

The whole NHS reform is based on an assertion – that GPs are somehow better placed to decide what NHS services need to be provided because they are in some sense ”closer to patients”.

The news story today that GPs seem to be failing to provide adequate services to elderly people in care homes raises doubts about this assumption. I tweeted about it and have had an interesting exchange with ”TheNiceLadyDoc” (a GP). Continue reading