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 8: Views and Comments: A Success or a Staging Post?

Kate Jenkins

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


By the mid-1990s agencies were no longer a ‘reform’; they were regarded as a part of the government. The management structure of nearly three quarters of the Civil Service had been altered, in many cases irrevocably. Most agencies worked to specific, published targets with published performance indicators. The function, objectives and results achieved by each organisation were all available. The chief executives of the agencies had a recognised public responsibility and published personal objectives against which their achievements could be tested; their pay was influenced by performance, and failure could be the subject of public debate. The establishment of organisations designed to focus on Fulton’s basic, guiding principle: ‘look at the job first’ had been achieved. But the concern expressed by both the Fulton Commission and the Efficiency Unit report about the management skills and competence of the senior Civil Service remained largely unmet. The agency changes have not only been radical in organisational terms. If that were all it really would be just a change for the writing paper and organisational theorists; the changes have forced forward improvements in service levels and the culture of the public service. Offices are open at more convenient times, staff are generally more helpful and courteous. There does appear – to the member of the public at the end of the telephone – some improvement in the attitude of the staff and the services available. These changes are not all or only attributable to ‘Next Steps’ as it had become generally...

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