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 7: Next Steps: Implementation

Kate Jenkins

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


The Efficiency Unit’s job was done. Producing the report and getting it accepted had been hard but past experience demonstrated that implementation was the weak point in changing the Civil Service. The new project manager was faced with a Herculean task. The Prime Minister had announced that his job was to implement the report’s recommendations ‘successfully’; the atmosphere was hardly encouraging. The Treasury remained suspicious and unhelpful. He was expected to produce fast results and had to start from scratch. He needed staff, an office and a programme. The Efficiency Unit could give him the results of the work on the twelve pilot agencies, the background work done the previous year and the working papers produced in the early months of 1987. The Efficiency Unit team had departed. Sir Robin Ibbs was leaving his role as Adviser to the Prime Minister. Karen Caines and Andrew Jackson had left the Efficiency Unit and I was coming to the end of my term there. There has been much discussion of what happened, but the simple outlines demonstrate how valuable a moderate amount of forward planning, determined management and a clear sense of overall direction are. Academic work has been done on the development of particular agencies as they have adapted to the changes imposed on them by the new agency structure (for example, Greer, 1994). The Child Support Agency, the first organisation to be set up from its start as an agency, faced exactly the problems foreseen:...

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