The policy process (I)

The policy process (I)
Agenda setting/
problem identification
Policy formulation/
approval (e.g.
Jeffrey Pressman and Aaron Wildavsky,
Implementation: How Great Expectations in
Washington Are Dashed in Oakland; or Why It’s
Amazing that Federal Programs Work At All, This
Being a Saga of the Economic Development
Administration as Told by Two Sympathetic
Observers Who Seek to Build Morals on a
Foundation of Ruined Hopes (University of
California Press, 1973).
Pressman & Wildavsky, study of Economic
Development Administration : findings
• Delays in implementation resulted from complex
system of planning approval – too many decision
• Delays led to rising costs – further decision points
• Partners had received their partnership funding up
front – so later had little incentive to help make the
project work
• Initially project driven by personal enthusiasm of
leading personnel. When personnel changed, impetus
was lost and established parameters allowed to drift
• Ultimately, a programme expected to create 2,000 new
jobs ended up creating about 20
Pressman & Wildavsky, study of Economic
Development Administration : lessons
• Implementation cannot be divorced from
• Reduce number of decision points (simplify) ...
• ... But do not try to bypass ‘street level
• Accept revisions to policy in the light of
implementation ...
• ... and so revise our view of the policy
The policy process (II)
Agenda setting/
problem identification
Policy formulation/
approval (e.g.
‘Street-level bureaucrats’
• 1984 Rates Act – gave central government power
to cap rates
• Intention: make local government more cost
effective by imposing restraint on local
• Local authorities respond by setting rates higher
than necessary, anticipating possible future
• Result: increase in overall local government
The implementation gap (I)
Marsh & Rhodes, ‘The implementation gap: explaining policy
change and continuity’, in Marsh & Rhodes (eds),
Implementing Thatcherite Policies: Audit of an Era (Open
University Press, 1992), pp. 170-187
• During the Thatcher era, ‘a great deal changed in terms of
legislation but much less changed in terms of outcomes’ (p.
• ‘Much of the previous literature overstimates the degree of
change because they concentrate on legislative change rather
than policy outcomes; the Conservatives had major
implementation problems in areas like local government,
industrial relations, privatization and health.’ (p. 187)
The implementation gap (II)
• Privatization intended to
– create more efficient public sector by introducing
– Weaken unions and reduce their wage bargaining power
• But
– improvements in public sector efficiency were negligible …
– … and there is little evidence of a reduction in the scale
and frequency of wage claims
The implementation gap (III)
• Local government
– abolished the Greater London Council and the
metropolitan county councils
– Imposed compulsory competitive tendering (CCT) for
services like refuse collection
– reduced local government’s responsibility for both housing
and education
– Transformed local government finance by introducing the
Poll Tax
• But
– local government spending about the same as before
– CCT had little effect on accountability
– And the poll tax …
Lessons for policymakers
• Consider the people who are going to be
implementing your policy – what will they do?
• Your policies may not achieve what you expect
them to ...
• ... or they may achieve other things in addition
to what you were expecting
Unintended consequences
Intention ...
Result ...
Volstead Act, 1919 (US)
Reduce public disorder by
banning consumption of
Massive explosion of
bootlegging, extortion,
gangsterism and murder
(plus huge loss of
government revenue)
A&E waiting time targets
Stop long waits in casualty
People kept in ambulances,
given wrong treatment, or
discharged too early
Biofuel subsidies
Reduction in fossil fuel use
Inflation of food crop
prices causing hunger in
third world countries
‘No child left behind’ (US)
Improve literacy &
Schools reduced standards
to ensure more pupils met
Transparency in executive
pay (US)
Shame companies into
paying execs less
Steady climb in executive
pay levels
Coalition problems?
Executive pay
Welfare crackdown
Child benefit
... etc.
The policy process (II)
Agenda setting/
problem identification
Policy formulation/
approval (e.g.
Marble Arch (don’t walk through the
middle one!)

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