Edited by Stephen P. Osborne and Louise Brown
Chapter 34: Innovations in structure: experience from local government in the UK
Structural innovation in the public sector typically involves the amalgamation of small organizations into a new bigger body, the disaggregation of large organizations into smaller units or the development of platforms for the shared delivery of services by several agencies. Such reforms have a long history as a response to both perceived weaknesses in service provision and a desire to reap gains in efficiency (March and Olson 1983). Invariably, debates on the appropriate structures for public service delivery often concentrate on the issue of scale, especially the optimum client population size in terms of its relationship with costs, effectiveness and democratic responsiveness. The impact of this issue has been especially apparent at the local level, particularly in the UK where central government has displayed a predilection for centrally mandated structural innovation in response to the perceived inefficiency of smaller local governments (John 2010). Prior to the advent of devolution of administrative powers to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, innovations in the structure of UK local government had tended to take the form of vertical consolidation and horizontal amalgamation of small units into larger ones, in an attempt to reap scale economies associated with bigger bureaucratic organizations.
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