What is public service reform? experiences across the UK

Robert Pyper

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Given the title of this paper, a prior question might be ‘what is public service in the UK?’ We shall return to this is due course. ‘Public service reform’ is an elusive concept, and, in practice, what we have across the UK are several, often distinct, reform processes. This paper identifies some of the broad common themes which apply to the reform agendas in core spheres of the public services, before going on to offer observations on the distinctive approaches being taken to the overall management of public service reform within the governments of Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland, and contrast the possibilities (if not, in practice, the realities) for more corporate and holistic approaches within the devolved polities with the arguably more disaggregated approaches which characterise the English reform processes. The paper provides confirmation that devolution in the UK, building upon some historical traditions of relative regional/sub-national autonomy in some spheres of service provision, and the asymmetrical character of the late 1990s constitutional innovations, leads to significant variations in the management of public service reform. Beyond that, even in the case of the still largely ‘unified’ elements of the public services, such as the civil service, the reform agendas are subject to potentially significant local variation due to the emerging distinctive cultures within these bodies in the devolved polities.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 9 Sept 2013
EventAnnual Conference of the Joint University Council Public Administration Committee 2013: Public Service Innovation - University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 9 Sept 201311 Sept 2013


ConferenceAnnual Conference of the Joint University Council Public Administration Committee 2013
Abbreviated titlePAC Annual Conference 2013
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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