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 6: The Report: Discussion and Decisions

Kate Jenkins

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


The 1987 election was over and the Conservative Government was returned to power. The Unit had taken precautionary measures in case a Labour Government was elected. Unofficial discussions with the Labour Party had ‘indicated’ that Labour would want to continue the line on public service management taken by the previous administration. I had had a discussion with someone from the Leader of the Opposition’s office. I described what we were thinking about and what the Efficiency Unit was doing, without going into the details of the report. His view was that the Labour Party knew ‘something had to be done about the way the Government was run’, but had no clear policy. They felt the changes were broadly right but could say little because of the closeness of their relations with the Civil Service Unions. However, careful insurance proved unnecessary. The new administration returned to its old in-trays, the Civil Service returned to work after the relaxing interlude provided by a general election. Unused briefing material put together for an ‘incoming administration’ was put aside and familiar issues reappeared. DISCUSSIONS: THE SENIOR OFFICIALS One of these issues was the report of the Efficiency Unit Scrutiny. Now titled Improving Management in Government: the Next Steps, it came surprisingly rapidly to the top of the Prime Minister’s pile. The discussion to persuade senior officials and ministers had to start. The Prime Minister was clear she would only move forward with her colleagues; they were clear they...

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