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Agencies, ministers and civil servants in Britain

Hogwood, Brian W. and Judge, D. and McVicar, M. (2001) Agencies, ministers and civil servants in Britain. In: Politicians, Bureaucrats and Administrative Reform. Routledge, London, UK, pp. 35-44. ISBN 0415234433

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Abstract

Huge variations exist in the relationships between politicians and agenciesin Britain, from very frequent contact in a politicised atmosphere to thecomplete absence of a direct relationship at all. The nature of therelationship appears to be determined less by agency status as such as bythe political sensitivity of particular policy issues. While politicians are notinvolved in the day-to-day running of most agencies, they have beenconcerned with operational matters in a small number of agencies. Whilemany agencies have no direct input into policy issues (and there are fewdirectly concerning them), in a limited number of cases the agency is themain source of policy advice because it is the repository of expertise, andin others the agency has the right to be consulted about any policyproposals affecting them, and to make policy proposals. The British NextSteps agency form, because of it relatively informal status, is relativelyadaptable to new purposes. Thus, agency status as such has provided littlehindrance to the new Labour government. Similarly, while agencies wereoriginally set up and largely operate with a vertical perspective on meetingtheir own targets, the form is adaptable to cross-organisational targets,though it cannot solve conflicting objectives or policies.