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April 27, 2009





It's interesting, isn't it, that the word 'bureaucratic' is used so often when your 'managerialist' one would be so much better.

Who on earth can honestly object to bureaucracy in itself? Sure, it's an easy target as it can be portrayed as bungling inefficiency AND threatening power.

The big threat to 'bureaucracy' however, is disruption to decisionmaking processes. Systematic decision-making demands an equivalent of the 'official secret' but the internet seems to abhor it.

Cameron may be enjoying the problems this causes for the current government, but he'll soon stop doing that if he ever gets into No10.

I agree completely with your recent posts about centralisation and bounded rationality- what I don't see in any of your posts (yet) is how the centre can decentralise in the way you advocate without having to take responsibility for poor local decisions. I'd agree that the centre *shouldn't* be blamed for totemic bits of poor policymaking at a local level. But they *are*.


Absolutely cracking post.

Another very real tension is between decenteralisation, accountability, and monitoring.

Generally as you decenteralise, privatise or localise there is an overwelming desire to ensure outcomes are monitored and outcomes targetted. This generally then requires managerial or bureacratic processes to achieve. This isn't neccesarily a bad thing because unless I'm very much mistaken the centre and ultimately Ministers are held responsible and expected to be accountable for what happens on the ground.

And unfortunatly smaller charities, the private sector, and social enterperises quite often are just as bad at delivering what essentially public goods as the traditional public sector.


We must guard against the silly prejudice that “state = inefficient, private = efficient”.

Are you actually suggesting that the state is not inherently less efficient than private business? If so can you provide some evidence to support this as it seems plain wrong.


"And we will pay these new providers by the results they achieve, so there’s a real incentive to improve."

This will involve plenty of 'post-bureaucratic' monitoring, reporting, value-for-money and target-meeting processes. VfM, as it is called, requires consultants, committees, meetings, change-managers, change champions etc etc.

One way to reduce bureaucracy is to trust the people who work for you or spend your money until and unless the service provided could be dramatically better.


Surely you must realise this is all PR hot air. It is cosy feelie rubbish.

look at the actual policy and both Labour and Tory policy is about giving windfalls to private firms at the tax payers expence and leaving the rich to enjoy their tax havens.

the Non doms who live in the UK but not for Tax purposes will happily pay 50p Income Tax: 50 per cent of 0 is easy to pay.


Jeez where in the solar system do you guys live. have you been hiding for the last 100 years? Every management book ( left or right, Keynsien or Smithian) has highlighted the fact that beaurocracy and levels of middle management lead to inefficiency, waste and empire building. This counts in the private sector as much as the public sector. Have you heard of the Peter Pricipal? Every social study ever done has found that when people organise to achieve a result what works best is an organisation of less than 250 people.

I have no idea if Cameron is the right one to do it, but it is very easy to set a culture and example whilst NOT micro managing every thing it's called empowering people. First highlighted in Robert Townsend Up the Organisation written in mid 70's

Andrew Duffin

"Is it possible to achieve such cultural change quickly at the same time as decentralizing?"

Absolutely, it is. Because the centralising (never mind your American spelling, thank you) is a basic cause of the culture.

If everything depends on pleasing your political boss; if you're never criticised as long as you tick the boxes (regardless of whether anything useful gets done); if the people consuming your service have no say in how, when, or by who it's delivered; if you get paid regardless of how well or badly you work; when all these are true you get the jobsworth culture we have now.

And it's centralisation and targetting that produces those things.

As for failing to harness the dispersed knowledge etc etc, well blimey but words fail me. It's centralisation that fails to harness the dispersed knowledge, by imposing the incomplete and faulty knowledge of "experts" at the centre. We're talking about setting people free to do their jobs properly, for heaven's sake: you have it completely back to front.

There is no tension at all between the aims of this policy. There will, of course, be tension between the policy and those non-productive elements (NOT the workers - the office wallahs and the union chiefs) who have a vested interest in the system as it is. But their vested interest is exactly what needs to be challenged and broken.



As a state worker, we're already very careful with public money. But being extra careful means we will take less risk. Which means decision making is very slow, as the due diligence and risk assessment processes kick in.

Caution = less innovation. Caution = slower decision making.

The legacy is too much caution, not too little. When we think about how the UK has 'gold plated' EU regulations, that's a case in point.

The big mistakes come when ministers and central government rush through ill thought out initiatives or spending programmes. The best solution is to devolve spending power to where the decisions are best made about how to implement things.

One of the big barriers to quicker decision making is central government control, targets, conditions. If they trusted us more to get on with it and put in place more devolved scrutiny, then sure there would be a few more mistakes, and a few more instances of corruption, but the good things would far outweigh the bad things.

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