What if Public Management Reform Actually Works?

George Boyne, Oliver James, Peter John and Nicolai Petrovsky

in Paradoxes of Modernization

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199573547
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191722677 | DOI:
What if Public Management Reform Actually Works?

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This chapter examines the Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA) regime in English local government, a scheme introduced in the early 2000s to improve performance across local authorities. A paradox lies in the fact that even though the CPA was a classical performance management system, overall it was a success, whereas most other performance measurement systems have failed or have been replaced quickly by systems of performance review. The scheme worked by improving the information environment for stakeholders, incentivizing poor performers to improve and make a substantive difference to local authority performance overall. This result is surprising, particularly given some contradictory elements of the incentivization under the CPA, such as a context where deprivation beyond local authority control influences public service outcomes and an asymmetric electoral response to performance — electoral punishment for low performance, but no corresponding reward for high performance. Yet the system actually worked, in spite of a volume of commentary and research on public management reform that says otherwise.

Keywords: Comprehensive Performance Assessment; incentive schemes; local government; performance management

Chapter.  6407 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Public Management and Administration

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