How can small-territory, subnational governments make the most of their position? Subnational governments like the devolved governments in the UK combine some of the opportunities and limitations of the national and the local governments between which they sit. They have some ‘national government’-type responsibilities and resources, like legislative authority and funding powers, although those resources are limited by their subordinate status. On the other hand, because their territories are comparatively small (Scotland has just under 5.5 million people and 32 local authorities, Wales just over 3 million and 22) they might able to cultivate ‘local government’-type relationships with a comprehensive range of local groups. Continue reading How might lower-ranking officials have a greater impact on policy development than previously assumed?
Peter Eckersley and Paul Tobin
How can we identify the real impact of austerity on policy? Our recent article in Policy & Politics bridges the gaps between research on ‘cutback management’, ‘policy capacity’ and ‘policy dismantling’, finding that front-line and often short-term challenges are being prioritised over more hidden and medium-term threats. The results suggest a ticking time-bomb for discovering the real impacts of austerity – particularly in sectors such as the environment, where policymakers need to stay on top of scientific and societal developments in order to design effective approaches to problems. Continue reading The Impact of Austerity on Policy Capacity in Local Government
Agnes Batory & Sara Svensson
Involving people in policy-making is generally a good thing. Policy-makers themselves often pay at least lip-service to the importance of giving citizens a say. In the academic literature, participatory governance has been, with some exaggeration, almost universally hailed as a panacea to all ills in Western democracies. In particular, it is advocated as a way to remedy the alienation of voters from politicians who seem to be oblivious to the concerns of the common man and woman, with an ensuing decline in public trust in government. Representation by political parties is ridden with problems, so the argument goes, and in any case it is overly focused on the act of voting in elections – a one-off event once every few years which limits citizens’ ability to control the policy agenda. On the other hand, various forms of public participation are expected to educate citizens, help develop a civic culture, and boost the legitimacy of decision-making. Consequently, practices to ensure that citizens can provide direct input into policy-making are to be welcomed on both pragmatic and normative grounds. Continue reading How not to conduct a consultation – and why asking the public is not always such a great idea
Text by Sarah Brown based on Paul Thomas’ article: Changing Experiences of responsibilisation and contestation within counter-terrorism policies: the British Prevent experience
Britain’s Prevent Strategy was arguably the first post 9/11 attempt to operationalise ‘soft’, preventative counter-terrorism policies and it has been since significantly studied and copied by other states. Such preventative counter-terrorism policies adopted internationally have proved to be controversial, as fierce criticisms of Britain’s Prevent strategy have shown.
In some cases, subsequent modifications have attempted to address these criticisms but the negative public understanding of Prevent has stuck, based on those original criticisms.
Continue reading So-called ‘toxic’ Prevent scheme to halt radicalisation has been misrepresented new research shows
For many organisations providing important public services, such as education, health care or community services, non-governing boards serve as the primary accountability mechanisms for daily management. The ‘boardisation of the public sector’, as Wilks described this, has evolved considerably. In my country of residence the Netherlands, for instance, the guesstimation is that we have almost 50,000 positions on those boards, six times as many as in democratically elected local councils. A large proportion of those positions have been created in the recent past. This would suggest that the board model is a major success.
Continue reading The Role of Public Sector Boards
Wahed Waheduzzaman, Sharif As-Saber and Mohotaj Binte Hamid
Countries around the world have been facing numerous challenges in promoting citizen participation in the governance process. Among them, elite capture is considered to be a significant stumbling block that undermines this process. ‘Elite capture’ is where elites in a society exercise disproportionate and unacceptable levels of influence over collective functions and manipulate decision making processes to secure undue benefits for themselves (see Wong, 2012).
Continue reading Do elites in a society exercise disproportionate and unacceptable levels of influence during collective decision making processes to secure undue benefits for themselves?
Bianca Rousselot, Thomas Milic and Adrian Vatter
Chances are, if you were in the “remain” and not in the “leave” camp, you probably think the referendum on Brexit should never have been called. And you probably wouldn’t be alone in that. Think back to the time when French and Dutch voters dealt a death blow to the EU Constitutional Treaty in the 2005 referendums. There were probably a good many people who thought the same thing then. As Qvortrup (2014) puts it, direct democracy “in recent years has thwarted cherished ideas and many a politician’s pet project”. Continue reading Direct Democracy: Political back-seat driving, without licence and under the influence?