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Public service reform

25 January 2011

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Cardiff Business School has joined forces with leading European business experts in a new multi-million Euro programme designed to test the success of public sector reform.

Over the last 20 years public services in the UK and across Europe have experienced major change. De-regulation of public services, under the New Public Management concept, has seen services exposed to the rigours of the market and increased competition.

The theory behind the concept was that de-regulation would lead to greater cost-efficiency for governments, without having negative side effects on other objectives and considerations. Despite the theory, ideological arguments have helped monopolise the debate and a sound empirical foundation is lacking.

"The question we are trying to answer through this major piece of European-wide research is relatively simple: has deregulating public services and the New Public Management led to smaller, more efficient and effective public services," according to Dr Rhys Andrews who will lead the study at Cardiff Business School.

"The ideas underlying the New Public Management concept created major expectations, but as yet we do not know what came of it. For example, we do not know if all citizens benefited in the same way from the government reforms and what are the major success stories.

"This study will help us the get to the bottom of these important questions – especially now as Europe remains in the grips of a difficult financial situation with increased demand on finite public resources", he added.

Erasmus University Rotterdam’s Public Administration Department together with Cardiff Business School and 10 other European universities will investigate the impact of more than 20 years of government reform. The research will examine whether government reforms have contributed to more efficiency, more effectiveness, better policy and more satisfied citizens.

The research will make use of an opinion survey among the residents of 27 EU member states, as well as government statistics and reports and will seek to interview some 3,000 top level public servants in 10 European countries.

Dr Rhys Andrews added: "As important to establishing the success of public sector de-regulation, the research will also help develop scenarios for the future of the Public Sector in Europe in collaboration with an international group of experts and policymakers – which we look forward to help shaping."

The research is financed as a Collaborative Project by the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Commission. The European Commission is investing € 2.7 million in this COCOPS (Coordinating for Cohesion in the Public Sector of the Future) Project as part of its research into ‘The Public Sector of the Future’.

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