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Understanding elites: values, attitudes, motivations and role perceptions of top public sector executives in Europe

Trui Steen and Ulrike Weske

Data from the COCOPS survey is used to study what drives top civil sector executives in Europe and explore international differences related to their role perceptions, assessment of what values should underlie public services, work values, and personal attitudes. Across different countries trends towards new forms of public service delivery do not mean that old roles and values steering public service have disappeared. Rather, public sector leaders balance different roles and values that at times might seem hard to combine into one. The senior civil servants in Europe seem motivated by intrinsic elements of the work and by doing good for society. This supports the focus on the public interest central in the thriving public motivation literature, acting as a counter-weight for the bureaucrat bashing that has been prominent in previous decades. Finally, the data on personal attitudes indicate a high level of entrepreneurial potential and focus on achievement.
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A top-down, customer-oriented approach to reform: perceptions from UK civil servants

James Downe, Rhys Andrews and Valeria Guarneros-Meza

The survey of senior civil servants in UK central government was conducted at a crucial time as the impact of the fiscal crisis was starting to be felt. These perceptions are important as they reveal what reforms and instruments are working and how things could be changed in the future. The results suggest that the UK remains more committed to New Public Management (NPM) reforms and instruments, such as contracting out, privatization and business management practices, than other European countries. These reforms also seem to have been implemented in a more top-down way, with public sector downsizing being more important than elsewhere. Nonetheless, although the attractiveness of the public sector as an employer and trust in government appear to have weakened, we find high take-up of certain post-NPM reforms and practices, such as open government and external partnership, with a corresponding pay-off in terms of improved transparency and citizen participation.
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The slow pace of public administration reform in Spain

José M. Alonso, Judith Clifton and Daniel Díaz-Fuentes

This chapter examines the COCOPS survey on public administration managers for Spain. Spain seems to be a unique case among the rest of the COCOPS countries since it is the only one where more public managers perceive the public administration system has worsened than those who perceive it has improved over the past five years, particularly as regards social cohesion and citizen participation. We argue the slow implementation of public administration reform, the radical austerity policies implemented by the government since the crisis, and a change of government may help explain why it is that Spanish public managers perceive much reform to be ineffectual or slow in coming.
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Riding the roller coaster: Ireland’s reform of the public service at a time of fiscal crisis

Richard Boyle

Ireland presents an interesting case of public administration reform at a time of turbulence. The country was dramatically hit by the international fiscal crisis with a GDP drop of 11 per cent in the three years prior to 2010. Both the state and its financial system became reliant on international support. The depth of the crisis raised concerns about the Irish political and administrative system, and prompted calls for fundamental public service reform. The attitudes of senior public executives to reform have therefore been heavily influenced by the national and international fiscal crisis. Interestingly despite the effects of the crisis, when compared to the COCOPS sample average, Irish senior public executives tend to be somewhat more positive in their assessment of how public administration has performed over the last five years. However, managing reductions in the size and cost of the public sector has caused significant challenges and difficulties for managers. The magnitude of the challenges faced and the endeavours to address them has been substantial.
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Reinventing the old reform agenda: public administrative reform and performance in Sweden

Helena Wockelberg and Shirin Ahlbäck Öberg

In Sweden the institutional setup of semi-autonomous state agencies and local self-government predates some of the objectives of New Public Management reforms. Nevertheless, from the 1990s Sweden has been a zealous follower of NPM reforms. At present, Swedish top managers identify two main reform trends that correspond with the government’s goals for the public sector. One trend relates to already established management ideas, focusing on transparency, efficiency and performance. Another trend reflects an increased focus on citizenship as a question of consumer satisfaction. Soft steering tools appear to be effective in creating an elite consensus on public management policies.
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Public administration reforms in Portugal: a path between service improvement and cutback measures

Luís Mota, Maria Engrácia Cardim and Luísa Pereira

This chapter analyses the main trends and impacts of reform from the Portuguese public sector over the past three decades. It is based on a systematized and updated examination of previous studies and on results from a survey launched on Central Public Administration executives. The analysis indicates the reform process was particularly intense on issues related with bureaucracy reduction and, more recently, on management practices oriented to efficiency and results. Survey results indicate nevertheless the reform process was too top-down and cost-cutting oriented and rather unsuccessful and uncoordinated. Major recent problems are a deterioration of public sector performance, as well as decreasing levels of citizen trust in government, social cohesion and staff motivation.
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Public Administration Reforms in Europe

The View from the Top

Edited by Gerhard Hammerschmid, Steven Van de Walle, Rhys Andrews and Philippe Bezes

Based on a survey of more than 6700 top civil servants in 17 European countries, this book explores the impacts of New Public Management (NPM)-style reforms in Europe from a uniquely comparative perspective. It examines and analyses empirical findings regarding the dynamics, major trends and tools of administrative reforms, with special focus on the diversity of top executives’ perceptions about the effects of those reforms.
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Public administration reforms and outcomes across countries and policy areas

Katy Huxley, Rhys Andrews, Gerhard Hammerschmid and Steven Van de Walle

This chapter explores public administration reform trends in Europe across 17 countries and 13 policy areas. The relationship between reforms, country and policy area were considered in relation to three public management paradigms (Public Administration (PA), New Public Management (NPM), and New Public Governance (NPG)), as well as four national administrative traditions (Napoleonic, Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian and Organicist). The relationship between country, policy area and perceived public administration performance is also assessed. Country-based analysis indicated that transparency and open government, collaboration and a results focus were significant trends across Europe, reflecting the dispersion of NPG, whilst NPM reforms, such as privatization were less significant. Overall, the analysis presented in the chapter suggests convergence in reform trends, though Napoleonic countries were likely to rate reforms as less important and perceive performance to be lower. Variation by policy area was minimal.
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Public administration reform in Estonia: the abundance of piecemeal initiatives

Riin Savi and Tiina Randma-Liiv

The chapter demonstrates that after more than 20 years of radical reforms and changes, the Estonian public sector is still highly reform oriented, especially when compared to the other European countries. The public sector managers report intensive use of various management instruments, and numerous public administration reform trends are held relevant and are being concurrently pursued. The prevalent public administration reform trends are focused at improving coordination and collaboration among different public sector actors, enhancing transparency and e-government via e-services. These reform initiatives are aimed at overcoming the current horizontal fragmentation of the public sector institutions and delivering public services more efficiently and effectively.
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Norway: managerialism, incrementalism and collaboration

Per Lægreid and Lise H. Rykkja

The chapter describes dominant public management reform trends and top-level civil servants’ assessments of the use of managerial tools within the public sector of Norway with a focus on the last five years. A main finding is that Norway largely follows the same reform trends as in Europe, with the important exception of public sector downsizing. The managerial tools that are used are judged as rather successful, in contrast to many other European countries. The reform features are in line with the traditional Norwegian collaborative reform strategy and policy style, and confirm a reluctant and incremental approach emphasizing managerial aspects rather than privatization and marketization.