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 11: Politics and Management: Can they Co-exist?

Kate Jenkins

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


In most political systems there is a recognisable gulf between Ministers and their immediate circle of advisers and officials and the senior managers responsible for the government machine. The pattern varies from country to country; senior managers can be anyone from the General in charge of the military to the doctor in charge of public health or a career official who has run the same part of the government for years, the President of a university or the chief executive of the Institute of National Heritage. The issues that perplex them will be partly specific to their country and their role but all of them will talk about budgets, priorities, staffing and, above all, about their relationship with the politicians who direct them. Politicians in office have a similar but not identical list of issues: political priorities, political pressures, what the President wants, what the press are saying, budgets and operational problems that are said to prevent the implementation of policy. Some Ministers have their own answers to the issues and want reassurance that they are right, others are confused and unsure which direction to take or whether anything can be done. For many, their horizons are limited to the problems they are dealing with immediately whether of policy or a serious politically charged system failure. Longer term strategic issues are constantly knocked aside by the immediate pressures. Senior officials at the Budget ministry, the Health ministry or the Accountant General are likely to...

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