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.

Chapter 5: Administration to Management: ‘A Plan to Shift the Foundations’

Kate Jenkins

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

Extract

In early 1988 the final shape of the report was still being developed and the nature of the review was altering. The Efficiency Unit and those working with the scrutiny team realised that the scrutiny findings implied that more than modest internal adjustments were needed. The conclusions raised more substantial and serious issues than had been expected. The recommendations could be far reaching and would need careful thought and extensive discussions. The final report is set out in full in the Annex. It is the report sent to the Prime Minister in March 1987 and published by the Efficiency Unit in February 1988. The team had had to understand what was happening within the Civil Service, it had to draw conclusions from that view and then, and only then, to move to recommendations. In some reviews this staged approach is impossible – the solution is self-evident from the beginning. But if the process of thinking through the analysis is divided from the development of solutions there is a better chance that the problems can be identified and solutions which deal with the problems can be devised. Rushing to solutions can produce favourite hobby horses. It risks gaps in the coverage and a tendency towards theoretical rather than practical solutions. At this stage, while the study team were working in a small group, their ideas on recommendations needed to be honed down and prepared for discussion with the Prime Minister before the issues were discussed with a wider group....

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