Politicians and Public Services

Politicians and Public Services

Implementing Change in a Clash of Cultures

Kate Jenkins

As a senior official in Mrs Thatcher’s government, the author describes in detail and from the inside the process of planning and introducing ‘executive agencies’, a major change in one of the largest governments in the world. She emphasises the intense difficulty involved in getting agreement to change and to implement decisions, discussing the problems of conflicting objectives between politicians and officials in dealing with the practicalities of managing large public sector institutions. The UK experience of ‘executive agencies’ has been influential across the world and in many countries. This book describes how the UK system was devised and introduced.

Introduction

Kate Jenkins

Subjects: economics and finance, public sector economics, politics and public policy, public policy

Extract

Public services and public sector management are the subject of political debate around the world. Users and voters are concerned with the outcomes; officials handle the inputs, the management and the finances, politicians deal with the policy and the political consequences of success and failure. The theme of this book is an exploration of why it is governments find it difficult to run public services effectively, why politicians repeatedly try to reform public services and largely fail, and why the public is so often dissatisfied with the services they use. The efforts of the Thatcher government in the 1980s to put analysis and political attention into the process of management in central government are described as an example of how a significant change to the organisation of public services was handled. The introduction of executive agencies demonstrated the critical importance of the definition and communication of policies so that implementation could be feasible and effective. The largest organisations on earth are publicly run organisations. Britain is not alone in finding the task complicated and difficult both to understand and to manage. The efforts of the international agencies, the countries in the OECD group and developing countries to tackle the problem have all highlighted how great the difficulties are. Executive agencies may have resolved some of the flaws in public sector management, but by no means all of them. In almost every country the government provides services essential for its...