40 YEARS OF PUBLIC MANAGEMENTREFORM IN UK CENTRALGOVERNMENT – PROMISES,PROMISESChristopher PollittEmeritus Professor, Public Management Institute,Katholieke Universiteit Leuvenchristopher.firstname.lastname@example.org
1. UK A WORLD LEADER IN PMR• Almost unceasing, large scale reforms, 1970-2012• UK examples frequent in the international literature• Cabinet Office and DfID active internationally promoting UK ideas and practices• UK influential and active in OECD, World Bank
2. STATE OF KNOWLEDGE ANDENQUIRY• Remarkably little reliable and warranted knowledge of outcomes of reform (no shortage of anecdotes and impressions)• Not much sign that governments have been interested in finding out• But plenty of practitioner ’how to’/craft knowledge has been accumulated
3. TAKE A SAMPLE OF FLAGSHIPPROGRAMMES• 1970 Reorganization of central government• 1981 Efficiency in government• 1991 Citizen’s charter• 1999 Modernising government• 2011 Open public services
4. CHANGES AND CONTINUITIES• Change - white papers have become longer, glossier, more populist• Change - their scope has increased ot the whole of the public sector, and beyond• Change - the citizen has moved from the fringes to centre stage, and is now a ’citizen-consumer’ (Clarke)• Continuity – none of these white papers has any systematic information about a) the need for reform, b) the targets of the reform or c) the costs of the reform. And only one of them (Citizen’s charter, 1991) puts in place a specific programme for evaluating the reform.
5. PROMISES, PROMISESLets look at some of the promises:• 1970: more co-ordinated and strategic approach to policymaking, and a better evidence base• 1981: Modern business techniques will eliminate waste and lower public spending• 1991: explicit standards will be set for public services and better information will be provided to citizens• 1999: joined-up government; eveidence-based policymaking; partnerships; e-government; enhanced responsiveness to citizens and businesses• 2011: decentralization; transparency; pluarlity of providers; equal opportunities
6. WHY SO LITTLE HARDEVIDENCE?• Difficulties in designing and implementing monitoring and evaluation (reforms don’t stand still, and neither does the context, plus there are often big attribution problems)• Lack of sustained interest. [Quote from official.] Political interest seldom sustained over the years it takes to implement a major reform. In some cases evaluations are resisted.
7. WHY SO MUCH REFORM?• Many reforms in many countries – an international wave• Anglo-Saxon club of managerial enthusiasts• Special features of UK: law-lite, highly centralized, majoritarian, toothless legislature.• ’It’s so easy!’
8. REFLECTIONS• Motives for reform may have shifted somewhat. PMR is now a policy sector in its own right• PMR has become both an ideology and a business that benefits from that ideology. Unlike 1970 there is now an international community of PMR ’experts’• Can/will this situation change? Perhaps. Regular coalitions might blunt it. Growing public cyncism might reduce the symbolic, short term political gains from reform announcements. Or governments could pass some kind of self-denying ordnance, attaching statutory requirements to new reforms.• But on the whole, the probability of major change seems low.• So, promises continue to be plentiful, even if they are not cheap.
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