Government productivity

August 16, 2011

An interesting piece from the London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) Public Policy Group entitled “Why Does Government Productivity Fail to Grow? New public Management and UK social security“. The piece is most interesting in that it is heavily critical of productivity at the UK Department of Work & Pensions (DWP). This is even more interesting when it is likely that the DWP will be taking on the new Universal Credit system, removing the current processing of Housing Benefits from local government.

Due to constant pressures from auditors, central government performance indicators and funding constraints the local government systems have become as efficient as possible given the constant changes imposed upon them and upon the system from central government. For it now to be transferred to a government department, that has clearly failed to get its own house in order, is likely to be a disaster. The paper even describes the HMRC as more efficient, when this blog and Parliament were criticising it very recently!

Whilst the convergence of benefits is obviously a good idea, perhaps questions need to be raised as to where, when and how it can be done most efficiently, if we are not to be left in a worse situation than the one we currently have!

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Accountability

February 9, 2010

A report to appear amidst the grey literature in February is one from Localis entitled “For Good Measure – Devolving Accountability for Performance and Assessment to Local Areas“.

However, what worries this practitioner/researcher amongst all the proposals for a bright, lighter world is an issue raised in 

Dunleavy, P., Margetts, H, Bastow, S and Tinkler, J., (2006). “New public management is dead. Long live digital-era governance.” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 16(3): 467-494.

Where, in the conclusions, on p.488 they ask “whether managers and political elites, long-educated and socialized in NPM approaches, will actually be able to change direction radically enough to fully exploit the potential of DEG reforms.” Where DEG is Digital Era Governance, a model that is e-government done the right way round without all the New Public Management (NPM) baggage of targets and boutique-bureaucracies that have undermined it. A particular concern of mine is that the existing local government management have grown up with NPM and got their jobs by supporting the regimen of performance indicators and inspection, how will they manage without it?

However, the report, along with providing a history of audit in local government requests a reduction of the increasing burden that it places on local authorities, such as the quantity of performance indicators and the indicators employed. Instead, the authors request the involvement  of  citizens (or as they describe them – residents). This needs the new regime to be prepared for co production, cooperatives and communication.