United Kingdom

   

Executive Capacity

#7
Key Findings
With its powerful core executive, the United Kingdom falls into the top ranks internationally (rank 7) with regard to executive capacity. Its score on this measure has increased by 0.2 points since 2014.

The prime minister sets the government agenda, while the Cabinet Office coordinates policy development. Strategic planning has been improved in recent years, although political uncertainty has made this task more difficult. Cabinet infighting has taken place at a scale rarely previously seen, complicating coordination.

RIAs are routinely performed, with sustainability an element of the review. Notably, no conventional RIA had been performed on the Brexit plans by the end of the review period. Efforts to consult organized economic and civil-society groups are made. The May government has been unable to develop a clear Brexit communication strategy.

Despite uncertainty, the government has generally been able to implement its programs. Monitoring has been expanded with a new Department for Exiting the European Union that oversees departments’ Brexit-related activities. However, the Grenfell Tower fire exposed major failings with regard to construction supervision.

Strategic Capacity

#2

How much influence do strategic planning units and bodies have on government decision-making?

10
 9

Strategic planning units and bodies take a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions, and they exercise strong influence on government decision-making.
 8
 7
 6


Strategic planning units and bodies take a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions. Their influence on government decision-making is systematic but limited in issue scope or depth of impact.
 5
 4
 3


Strategic planning units and bodies take a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions. Occasionally, they exert some influence on government decision-making.
 2
 1

In practice, there are no units and bodies taking a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions.
Strategic Planning
8
Although the United Kingdom has one of the most centralized political systems and is one of the long-established liberal democracies in the world, the resources directly available to the prime minister are relatively limited compared with those available to other heads of government. Formally, there is no prime ministerial department to provide strategic planning or advice, although the Cabinet Office provides an important coordinating role across government and its head, the cabinet secretary, attends cabinet meetings. The cabinet secretary is also the head of the civil service, after the two roles were separated under the previous coalition government, and chairs the quarterly Projects Commissioning Board. In 2014, the post of chief executive of the civil service was created with the incumbent becoming a permanent secretary of the Cabinet Office in 2015. The Projects Commissioning Board works closely with the Economic and Domestic Affairs Secretariat (EDS), established in summer 2015, which fosters future and innovative projects. A substantial effort has been made since 2010 to modernize the civil service, including its strategic capacity, with a cabinet-level minister taking the lead. A civil-service reform plan was launched in 2012 and led by the Cabinet Office. Establishing policymaking as a profession is one of the stated goals, a task that will have potentially long-term consequences for steering capability and strategic capacity.

At a political level, a special advisory unit has supported all recent prime ministers. George Freeman, Conservative member of parliament for Mid-Norfolk, has led the current unit, the Prime Minister’s Policy Board, since shortly after Theresa May became prime minster in July 2016. Special advisers and civil servants staff these advisory units. The remit of Number 10 Policy Unit is defined by the prime minister but tends to focus on strategic political and policy decisions. In 2012, the prime minister and deputy prime minister established a dedicated Implementation Unit within the Cabinet Office, charged with driving implementation in areas deemed to be of high priority and now reinforced by the creation of implementation task forces to oversee the delivery of policy initiatives. All government departments have been required by the new government to produce single departmental plans, which serve both to define their strategic objectives and to enable them to be monitored more effectively.

However, political uncertainty has made strategic planning harder. After Theresa May lost the Conservatives’ parliamentary majority in the 2017 general election she has led a minority government dependent on a “supply and confidence” agreement with the DUP, a Northern Irish unionist party. In addition, Conservative MPs – from both extremes of the Brexit spectrum – keep attacking their own government’s plans. And in spite of being members of the cabinet, Michael Gove (Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and Boris Johnson (Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) – former joint heads of the “leave” campaign and May’s opponents in the contest for the party leadership – keep fighting the prime minister in a way that in the past would have been considered incompatible with notions of cabinet government and collective cabinet responsibility. These political factors have diminished the government’s de facto capacities for strategic planning. Whether the system will regain its structural strength depends on Theresa May’s ability to win back control of her cabinet and her party in the near future.

Citations:
https://civilservicelearning.civilservice.gov.uk/sites/default/files/twelve_actions_report_web_accessible.pdf

Institute for Government (2014) Whitehall Monitor 2014 A data-driven analysis of the size, shape and performance of Whitehall (http://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/IFG%20-%20Whitehall%20Monitor%202014.pdf)

How influential are non-governmental academic experts for government decisionmaking?

10
 9

In almost all cases, the government transparently consults with a panel of non-governmental academic experts at an early stage of government decision-making.
 8
 7
 6


For major political projects, the government transparently consults with a panel of non-governmental academic experts at an early stage of government decision-making.
 5
 4
 3


In some cases, the government transparently consults with a panel of non-governmental academic experts at an early stage of government decision-making.
 2
 1

The government does not consult with non-governmental academic experts, or existing consultations lack transparency entirely and/or are exclusively pro forma.
Scholarly Advice
8
Non-governmental academic experts played an important role in conducting independent reviews of central government policy or strategy during the post-1997 Labour governments. They have worked on the economics of climate change (Sir Nicholas Stern), the future of the pension system (Lord Turner), a review of health trends (Sir Derek Wanless) and fuel poverty (Sir John Hills). Established academics have also served in decision-making bodies such, as the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England since 1997 when the Bank of England was made independent of government. These academics have thus been given substantial influence over core decisions. Most government departments solicit external studies on policy-relevant issues and are supported in doing so by a new Cabinet Office team called Launchpad. The reports are subject to normal procurement rules, typically with a restricted call for tenders.

When the coalition government took power, the change altered the political orientation of the experts consulted. However, a further shift in practice was due to the commitment to what is known as open policymaking (OPM), under which policymakers are called on to actively seek broader inputs into the policy process. The traditionally strong influence of think tanks has continued, but those of the left-leaning variety (e.g., Institute for Public Policy Research, Policy Network) have been replaced by more conservative-minded ones (e.g., Resolution Foundation, Centre for Policy Studies). The interactions are transparent, but occur at various stages of the policy process and are often initiated by the think tanks themselves. What appears to have changed is the underlying approach to OPM toward emphasizing not just evidence-based policymaking, but also identifying new and better policy solutions. A “what works” team in the Cabinet Office facilitates this and government departments publish their areas of research interest. The Government Office for Science is a unit dedicated to bringing scientific evidence to bear on decision-making.

There are also many informal channels through which government consults or is briefed by individual academics who have expertise in specific areas. These channels are often more influential than more formal consultation processes. One recent example was the review of the balance of competences between the EU and the national level, in which several government departments made very extensive attempts to engage with academics. Civil servants are routinely involved in academic events, and benefit from professional policy training and the Trial Advice Panel. The Trial Advice Panel, which consists of experts from within government and academics, supports civil servants to design experimental and quasi-experimental assessments for programs and interventions.

Citations:
https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/government-office-for-science/about

Interministerial Coordination

#2

Does the government office / prime minister’s office (GO / PMO) have the expertise to evaluate ministerial draft bills substantively?

10
 9

The GO / PMO has comprehensive sectoral policy expertise and provides regular, independent evaluations of draft bills for the cabinet / prime minister. These assessments are guided exclusively by the government’s strategic and budgetary priorities.
 8
 7
 6


The GO / PMO has sectoral policy expertise and evaluates important draft bills.
 5
 4
 3


The GO / PMO can rely on some sectoral policy expertise, but does not evaluate draft bills.
 2
 1

The GO / PMO does not have any sectoral policy expertise. Its role is limited to collecting, registering and circulating documents submitted for cabinet meetings.
GO Expertise
9
The primary coordinating role is undertaken by the Cabinet Office, which has expertise in all areas of government since Cabinet Office officials commonly worked in other departments before. According to its website, the Cabinet Office has over 2,000 staff, is responsible for the National Security Council and is central to “making government work better.” The Cabinet Office’s Economic and Domestic Secretariat is responsible for coordinating policy advice to the prime minister and the cabinet, and the attached Parliamentary Business and Legislation (PBL) Secretariat provides advice on legislation and supervises progress made by bill drafting teams. The head of the Economic and Domestic Secretariat is also responsible for the Implementation Unit and the operation of the Implementation Task Forces, which oversee the implementation of government policies, and coordinates between ministers and public officials. Implementation Unit staff are policy experts from the civil service with good ministerial networks and excellent substantive expertise. The role of the Treasury in putting pressure on departmental spending also contributes to interministerial coordination.

Can the government office / prime minister’s office return items envisaged for the cabinet meeting on the basis of policy considerations?

10
 9

The GO/PMO can return all/most items on policy grounds.
 8
 7
 6


The GO/PMO can return some items on policy grounds.
 5
 4
 3


The GO/PMO can return items on technical, formal grounds only.
 2
 1

The GO/PMO has no authority to return items.
GO Gatekeeping
9
During the coalition government 2010 to 2015, a complex mechanism had to be set up to ensure bipartisan approval and consistency among coalition partners. After the end of the coalition and the return to single party government in May 2015, the situation has returned to the pre-2010 status quo and remained so after the majoritarian government turned into a one-party minority government in 2017.

The Cabinet Secretariat, the most important political unit within the Cabinet Office, sets the agenda for cabinet meetings and prepares a forward program, which is agreed by the prime minister. The Cabinet Secretariat may contact ministerial offices to request that a minister makes a presentation, presents a paper or raises an issue orally. The prime minister is thus in a very strong position.

Citations:
Constitution Unit 2011: Inside Story: How Coalition Government Works (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/constitution-unit/research/coalition-government/interim-report.pdf). Royal Holloway Group 2012: A partnership of unequals: Positional power in the coalition government, in: British Politics 7 (4), 418-442.

To what extent do line ministries involve the government office/prime minister’s office in the preparation of policy proposals?

10
 9

There are inter-related capacities for coordination in the GO/PMO and line ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The GO/PMO is regularly briefed on new developments affecting the preparation of policy proposals.
 5
 4
 3


Consultation is rather formal and focuses on technical and drafting issues.
 2
 1

Consultation occurs only after proposals are fully drafted as laws.
Line Ministries
9
The Cabinet Office is at the center of policymaking. Since the May 2015 general election, all line ministries are required to prepare single departmental plans (SDP), building on a process already launched during the previous coalition government. As explained by John Manzoni, the Chief Executive of the civil service appointed in October 2014, these SDPs are intended to bring together inputs and outputs, clarify trade-offs, and to identify where departments and the cross-departmental functions need to work together to deliver the required outcomes.

The creation of implementation taskforces, working alongside cabinet committees, is intended to strengthen the central oversight of policy proposals.

Nevertheless, some of the political tensions around Brexit have complicated the coordination process

How effectively do ministerial or cabinet committees coordinate cabinet proposals?

10
 9

The large majority of cabinet proposals are reviewed and coordinated first by committees.
 8
 7
 6


Most cabinet proposals are reviewed and coordinated by committees, in particular proposals of political or strategic importance.
 5
 4
 3


There is little review or coordination of cabinet proposals by committees.
 2
 1

There is no review or coordination of cabinet proposals by committees. Or: There is no ministerial or cabinet committee.
Cabinet Committees
9
The composition and terms of reference of cabinet committees are decided by the prime minister. The minister for the Cabinet Office also has an influential role. The importance of cabinet meetings and committees increased under the previous coalition government, because of the need to ensure fair representation of both coalition parties. In addition, a powerful coalition committee, chaired jointly by the prime minister and deputy prime minister, existed. The latter became redundant when the new Conservative government won power in May 2015. A number of other committees, such as a committee on banking reform, were also discontinued. However, the creation of implementation taskforces alongside conventional committees has meant a net increase in numbers. Since the change of prime minister in the summer of 2016, two noteworthy innovations are the establishment of the European Union Exit and Trade Committee and the Economy and Industrial Strategy Cabinet Committee, both of which are chaired by the prime minister. Additionally, a committee on social reform was created. This evolution is characteristic of the UK government’s tendency to create new committees rapidly in response to shifts in political priorities, demonstrating the flexibility of the system.

Cabinet committees reduce the burden on the cabinet by enabling collective decisions to be taken by a smaller group of ministers. Since the Conservative government of Edward Heath (1970 – 1974), it has become an established norm that decisions settled in cabinet committees are not questioned in full cabinet unless the committee chair or the prime minister decide to do so.

How effectively do ministry officials/civil servants coordinate policy proposals?

10
 9

Most policy proposals are effectively coordinated by ministry officials/civil servants.
 8
 7
 6


Many policy proposals are effectively coordinated by ministry officials/civil servants.
 5
 4
 3


There is some coordination of policy proposals by ministry officials/civil servants.
 2
 1

There is no or hardly any coordination of policy proposals by ministry officials/civil servants.
Ministerial Bureaucracy
8
The interministerial coordination of policy proposals is an official civil service goal. Single Departmental Plans (SDPs) set out departmental objectives and how these will be achieved. SDPs highlight areas of cross-departmental working, including where departments are working together to deliver shared objectives and are overseen by the Cabinet Office and the Prime Minister’s Office. There are also some cross-departmental bodies established in response to the identification of specific objectives, such as the Work and Health Unit set up to improve the employability of disabled or ill people.

However, problems of capacity and capability in this area have been revealed by surveys undertaken within the civil service. Examples of civil service disruption are, on the one hand, the Civil Service Reform Plan of 2012 and, on the other hand, the coalition’s spending cuts, which have hit parts of the ministerial bureaucracy very hard and led to considerable job cuts. Relations between the civil service and the government have been affected, but the situation does not seem to have had a great impact on the efficiency of policy-proposal coordination. As explained above, the Cabinet Office assures coordination at the level of officials.

There are concerns that the workload required to deliver Brexit will undermine coordination within government.

How effectively do informal coordination mechanisms complement formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination?

10
 9

Informal coordination mechanisms generally support formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
 8
 7
 6


In most cases, informal coordination mechanisms support formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
 5
 4
 3


In some cases, informal coordination mechanisms support formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
 2
 1

Informal coordination mechanisms tend to undermine rather than complement formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
Informal Coordination
9
Informal coordination was a hallmark of the Labour governments under Tony Blair (1997 to 2007). However, informal coordination was reduced during the Labour government of Gordon Brown (2007 to 2010) and largely abolished under the coalition government (2010 to 2015), because of the need for avoiding tensions within the coalition. Having returned to one-party government in May 2015, it was expected that informal forms of coordination would become more common again.

Cabinet committee discussions are regularly preceded or accompanied by bilateral meetings of relevant ministers supported by senior officials across government. These will often be chaired by the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster or by other senior ministers.

The divisions within the governing Conservative Party, including among senior ministers, over the aims and likely “red lines” in negotiating the United Kingdom’s future relations with the European Union could complicate informal coordination, but – as examples of informal interministerial groups on subjects as diverse as flooding or the 2018 Commonwealth Summit show – it is working reliably in other areas.

Citations:
Collaborative Civil Service: https://civilservice.blog.gov.uk/2016/04/28/a-model-for-a-more-collaborative-civil-service-the-estate-strategy-in-action/

Evidence-based Instruments

#2

To what extent does the government assess the potential impacts of existing and prepared legal acts (regulatory impact assessments, RIA)?

10
 9

RIA are applied to all new regulations and to existing regulations which are characterized by complex impact paths. RIA methodology is guided by common minimum standards.
 8
 7
 6


RIA are applied systematically to most new regulations. RIA methodology is guided by common minimum standards.
 5
 4
 3


RIA are applied in some cases. There is no common RIA methodology guaranteeing common minimum standards.
 2
 1

RIA are not applied or do not exist.
RIA Application
8
The reduction of regulation costs has been a long-standing policy goal of successive governments. Regulatory Impact Assessments (RIAs) have to be prepared for all legislation, which affects businesses, charities and voluntary bodies, to assess the benefits and burdens of the planned measure. Academic research has questioned the value of these assessments since their results are not systematically integrated into the decision-making process, but they are certainly applied. The threshold for conducting a full RIA has been raised from effects exceeding £1 million to £5 million, but this is expected only to reduce the number of RIAs by 7%. RIAs are flowed up after five years to verify their findings, with independent oversight.

While this is good overall practice, it has not yet been followed in the assessment of Brexit. Although Brexit Secretary David Davies stated repeatedly that the government has assessed the impact of different possible models of Brexit, though not with a formal RIA, the results of these assessments remain unpublished.

Citations:
Dunlop, Claire A. et al. 2012: The many uses of regulatory impact assessment: A meta- analysis of EU and UK cases, in: Regulation & Governance Vol. 6 23-45.

Does the RIA process ensure participation, transparency and quality evaluation?

10
 9

RIA analyses consistently involve stakeholders by means of consultation or collaboration, results are transparently communicated to the public and assessments are effectively evaluated by an independent body on a regular basis.
 8
 7
 6


The RIA process displays deficiencies with regard to one of the three objectives.
 5
 4
 3


The RIA process displays deficiencies with regard to two of the three objectives.
 2
 1

RIA analyses do not exist or the RIA process fails to achieve any of the three objectives of process quality.
Quality of RIA Process
8
The Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC), a body established in 2009 and independent since 2012, is responsible for quality evaluation and impact assessment. The RPC provides feedback to the Reducing Regulation Committee, a sub-committee of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, on the quality of the analysis and evidence presented. The RPC does not actively solicit input from outside the government department concerned, but is open to submissions from other stakeholders on the impacts of proposed regulation. Transparency and guidance is provided on the government website (gov.uk) detailing how to contact the RPC. The government invites direct comment on the process in an effort to engage citizens and, perhaps more importantly, businesses. To reduce regulatory costs for businesses, the government committed to a Business Impact Target (BIT). There is a one-in-three-out principle for new regulations, with information regularly updated online.

This is again contrasted by the fact that these rules are not applied in the planning and execution of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union.

Does the government conduct effective sustainability checks within the framework of RIA?

10
 9

Sustainability checks are an integral part of every RIA; they draw on an exhaustive set of indicators (including social, economic, and environmental aspects of sustainability) and track impacts from the short- to long-term.
 8
 7
 6


Sustainability checks lack one of the three criteria.
 5
 4
 3


Sustainability checks lack two of the three criteria.
 2
 1

Sustainability checks do not exist or lack all three criteria.
Sustainability Check
10
In the United Kingdom, the whole RIA process aims to provide support for sustainable policymaking. The assessment is based on a wide range of different indicators, including social, environmental and ecological. However, economic indicators seem to be the most important. The assessments analyze the impact of regulation over several time periods (i.e. short, medium and long-term), and they attempt to take into account external shocks and irregular developments.

However, for arguably the most important and certainly most complex political project in a generation – Brexit – the government has so far not delivered a substantial sustainability assessment, although this does not preclude one being done in due course.

Societal Consultation

#12

To what extent does the government consult with societal actors to support its policy?

10
 9

The government successfully motivates societal actors to support its policy.
 8
 7
 6


The government facilitates the acceptance of its policy among societal actors.
 5
 4
 3


The government consults with societal actors.
 2
 1

The government rarely consults with any societal actors.
Negotiating Public Support
7
The United Kingdom has less of a tradition, compared to many other EU countries, of systematically incorporating civil society organizations into the decision-making process. Nevertheless, a significant effort has been made since 2010 to make government more open. This effort has led to a substantial increase in policymaking transparency and has included systematic efforts to consult a range of actors. However, the extent to which social partners are formally engaged in the policymaking process continues to be less than in many other western European countries. The previous coalition government established a “Compact” to govern civil society engagement in the policymaking process in England, under the auspices of a (junior) Minister for Civil Society. Civil society is also listed as one of the responsibilities of the Minister for the Cabinet Office. The United Kingdom was a founding member of the Open Government Partnership, as part of which it is committed to producing a national action plan to engage with civil society. The current plan detailed a range of commitments. According to a recent self-assessment, some three-quarters of these commitments have already been achieved or are underway, though 27% of these commitments are behind schedule. Impact assessments are one means by which consultation has been enhanced, with drafts circulated to stakeholders before being finalized. Feedback on these drafts considered before decisions are taken on whether or not to proceed with the policy change under review. In 2014, some 650 public consultation processes took place, all described on the gov.uk website and this increased further in 2017 when 761 were conducted. In addition, a range of Advisory Boards solicit input into the policymaking process in areas such as migration and social security. Given the pluralist nature of the UK system of interest groups and associations, it can be difficult to identify which organization would be competent and legitimized to speak on a certain issue. However, through initiatives such as the “Policy Lab,” set up in 2014, the Cabinet Office has established a catchy approach to open policymaking. The United Kingdom continues to be prominent in the Open Government Partnership and made good progress toward the National Action Plan 2016 – 2018.

The 2016 Brexit referendum was unusual in negotiating public support. As had happened in the only previous EU referendum in 1975, members of the government and parliamentarians taking the governing Conservative Party whip were given the right to be leading members of the “leave” campaign, even though the official government position was to support “remain.” Similar dispensation was given to opposition shadow ministers.

Citations:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/compact-the-agreement-between-government-and-the-voluntary-community-sector

https://openpolicy.blog.gov.uk/about/

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/668970/Final_mid-term_self_assessment_report_NAP_2016-18.pdf

Policy Communication

#24

To what extent does the government achieve coherent communication?

10
 9

The government effectively coordinates the communication of ministries; ministries closely align their communication with government strategy. Messages are factually coherent with the government’s plans.
 8
 7
 6


The government coordinates the communication of ministries. Contradictory statements are rare, but do occur. Messages are factually coherent with the government’s plans.
 5
 4
 3


The ministries are responsible for informing the public within their own particular areas of competence; their statements occasionally contradict each other. Messages are sometimes not factually coherent with the government’s plans.
 2
 1

Strategic communication planning does not exist; individual ministry statements regularly contradict each other. Messages are often not factually coherent with the government’s plans.
Coherent Communication
5
Compared with the culture of secrecy of earlier decades, government has become much more open in the United Kingdom in recent years. This is due to a combination of the Freedom of Information Act passed by a Tony Blair-led Labour government, and a willingness to use the internet to increase transparency and open up government. The government website (www.gov.uk) provides extensive information on government services and activities, and has been redesigned to be more user friendly. It is also a single gateway website, which aims to facilitate greater coherence in line with the government communications plan.

On international measures, such as the Open Data Index or OECD government assessments, the United Kingdom scores well and there is clearly a strong push from within the administration to enhance communication, for example with a strategic communications plan and a single communications budget.

However, while the mechanisms of communication are laudable, delivery can be criticized. Government communication around the divisive issue of UK membership of the European Union has been far from clear and this lack of coherence is still apparent as the government struggles to explain its stance to the public. So far, Theresa May has been unable to develop a clear message for her government. The division that marked the Brexit campaign has seamlessly continued in cabinet friction and intra-Conservative parliamentary quarrels.

Citations:
OPM Approach: https://openpolicy.blog.gov.uk/ is an open site with short articles on the OPM approach


https://gcs.civilservice.gov.uk/communications-plan/

Implementation

#10

To what extent can the government achieve its own policy objectives?

10
 9

The government can largely implement its own policy objectives.
 8
 7
 6


The government is partly successful in implementing its policy objectives or can implement some of its policy objectives.
 5
 4
 3


The government partly fails to implement its objectives or fails to implement several policy objectives.
 2
 1

The government largely fails to implement its policy objectives.
Government Efficiency
7
The United Kingdom’s political system is highly centralized. For example, there are no “veto players” outside of the central government who could challenge or undermine the government’s core policy objectives. There is no written constitution and no constitutional court to challenge government decisions directly and effectively. However, there is provision for judicial review, something the government is currently trying to limit given its extensive use in recent years. The devolution of certain powers to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has meant that some national policy goals are subject to decisions at the subnational level over which the central government has only limited powers. In particular, the influence of the Scottish Parliament, based in Holyrood, has increased substantially following the close outcome of the Scottish referendum and the massive gains made by the Scottish National Party across Scotland in the last UK general election.

Historically, problems in achieving policy objectives have mainly arisen through intra-party disunity and parliamentary party rebellions. Even under the exceptional coalition government, Premier Minister David Cameron had more trouble controlling his own party’s right-wing than dealing with the demands of the junior coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats – until the United Kingdom returned to its traditional one-party government in 2015. That however changed again after the general election in 2017 in which May lost her absolute majority and was forced into a “confidence and supply” arrangement with the Northern Irish unionist DUP. It remains a fact, however, that regarding Brexit some of May’s most vocal opposition comes from both Brexiteers and Remainers within her own Conservative Party. While the former publicly express their concerns almost on a daily basis, the latter also have substantial influence which may well be on display at some future occasion.

To what extent does the organization of government provide incentives to ensure that ministers implement the government’s program?

10
 9

The organization of government successfully provides strong incentives for ministers to implement the government’s program.
 8
 7
 6


The organization of government provides some incentives for ministers to implement the government’s program.
 5
 4
 3


The organization of government provides weak incentives for ministers to implement the government’s program.
 2
 1

The organization of government does not provide any incentives for ministers to implement the government’s program.
Ministerial Compliance
8
The prime minister has traditionally had more or less absolute power to appoint politicians to government positions. She can thus use this power of patronage to earn the loyalty of backbench MPs and to ensure that ministers stick to the government agenda. Despite occasional leaks, the collective responsibility of cabinet is a well-entrenched doctrine and standards of behavior are recorded in the Ministerial Code. The prime minister’s power is partly dependent on the incumbent’s political strength and calculations by their party as to their future electoral success (which is directly linked to their own job security). Party whips also play a key role in passing legislation and thus in supporting the government, and – although Conservative MPs elected since 2010 are sometimes considered to be more prone to rebellion – any MPs with strong political ambitions have to be wary of being branded as mavericks. However, this label has become significantly less stigmatizing over the past years. In this spirit, prominent cabinet members have recently shown open insubordination – backed by substantial factions within the Conservative Party – to pursue their own political agenda and aims. This continues to burden the May government’s performance. Yet, despite the absence of a majority government for all but two years since 2009, the government is generally able to implement its programs, although Brexit, very evidently, will test this to the limit.

How effectively does the government office/prime minister’s office monitor line ministry activities with regard to implementation?

10
 9

The GO / PMO effectively monitors the implementation activities of all line ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The GO / PMO monitors the implementation activities of most line ministries.
 5
 4
 3


The GO / PMO monitors the implementation activities of some line ministries.
 2
 1

The GO / PMO does not monitor the implementation activities of line ministries.
Monitoring Ministries
9
The tight integration between the Prime Minister’s Office and the Cabinet Office enables prime ministers to be effective in determining the strategic direction of the government. Through Treasury Approval Point processes, the Treasury has long had an important monitoring role, which goes beyond the role of finance ministries in other countries. Decision-making is concentrated in strategic units and in informal meetings. Ministers have to reveal their preferences in cabinet meetings, cabinet committees and bilateral meetings with the prime minister or chancellor. Consequently, monitoring is relatively easy for the core executive, also by means of the single department plans.

Some recent initiatives have reinforced central oversight, including the merger of the Major Projects Authority and Infrastructure UK into the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, which reports to both the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury. There are implementation task forces set up at ministerial level to drive delivery in a focused set of priority areas and an implementation unit in the Cabinet Office which works on behalf of the prime minister to track the delivery of priority policies and the wider government program. It intervenes where delivery or operational performance is at risk, or progress is unclear and strengthens implementation capability across the civil service. The Financial Management Reform launched in 2014 has been evaluated as a success by the Institute for Government. The Department for Exiting the European Union oversees departments’ progress toward implementing the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union. The department has identified individual workstreams that need to be taken forward, and works closely with departments and other parts of central government to monitor delivery in these areas.

Citations:
Whitehall’s Financial Management Reform: https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/IfG_FMR_Cima_briefing_paper_WEB_2.pdf

How effectively do federal and subnational ministries monitor the activities of bureaucracies and executive agencies with regard to implementation?

10
 9

The ministries effectively monitor the implementation activities of all bureaucracies/executive agencies.
 8
 7
 6


The ministries monitor the implementation activities of most bureaucracies/executive agencies.
 5
 4
 3


The ministries monitor the implementation activities of some bureaucracies/executive agencies.
 2
 1

The ministries do not monitor the implementation activities of bureaucracies/executive agencies.
Monitoring Agencies, Bureaucracies
7
The United Kingdom was an early adopter of delegating civil-service work to executive agencies in order to improve performance and reduce costs, which has been going on since the early 1990s under the Next Steps Programme. There is, moreover, an expectation that the departmental minister takes responsibility for any agencies that the ministry oversees but no expectation that the minister will have to resign if problems arise in an agency. The ongoing Civil Service Reform also seeks to introduce new instruments of performance control and individual accountability, for example, through guidance, such as Managing Public Money. The Cabinet Office has recently revised its guidance on public service reviews and issued a code of good practice for partnerships between departments and arm’s length bodies.

Nevertheless, problems have arisen. After repeated criticism, the UK Border Agency, which is responsible for the entry and management of foreign nationals, was taken back into the Home Office to improve transparency and political accountability. It still attracts some negative headlines and there are evident stresses arising from the management of prisons by private contractors. Several child-abuse scandals revealed shortcomings in the monitoring of local-level entities, including local childcare, youth and police services. Further, the horrible fire at Grenfell Tower in June 2017 (which caused upwards of 70 deaths) exposed major failings in British construction supervision. To some extent, quality control bodies – for example, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary for the police – provide safeguards through setting standards. However, some public agencies have been heavily criticized. For example, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has been very critical of HM Revenue and Customs, the tax collection agency.

Citations:
Elston, Thomas 2011: Developments in UK executive agencies: re-examining the disaggregation – re-aggregation thesis, Paper presented to the Governance of Public Sector Organisations study group at the 33 rd Annual Conference of the European Group for Public Administration, Bucharest, 7th – 10th September 2011.

Tailored Reviews: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/570290/Tailored_Review_Guidance_v1.1_Nov_2016.pdf

Code of Good Practice: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/partnerships-with-arms-length-bodies-code-of-good-practice

To what extent does the central government ensure that tasks delegated to subnational self-governments are adequately funded?

10
 9

The central government enables subnational self-governments to fulfill all their delegated tasks by funding these tasks sufficiently and/or by providing adequate revenue-raising powers.
 8
 7
 6


The central government enables subnational governments to fulfill most of their delegated tasks by funding these tasks sufficiently and/or by providing adequate revenue-raising powers.
 5
 4
 3


The central government sometimes and deliberately shifts unfunded mandates to subnational governments.
 2
 1

The central government often and deliberately shifts unfunded mandates to subnational self-governments.
Task Funding
7
Within the United Kingdom, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have devolved governments, which have responsibility for major public services, such as health care and education. England has no devolved government, though local authorities in England have responsibility for a more limited range of public services, including schools. The central government exercises tight control over the finances of the devolved governments and local authorities in England. The bulk of local authority revenue in England comes from central government grants, even the rate of property tax is controlled centrally. As a result, local authorities have been among the hardest hit by government spending cuts. Social care is an especially problematic area, but local authorities are also highly constrained in dealing with basic services, such as filling potholes in roads. Increased task funding for subnational governments was announced in the 2017 budget, but it does not go far enough to offset funding gaps.

Given the absence of a written constitution, there is no mechanism to govern the allocation of funds to finance these devolved tasks. As such, any decisions about funding is subject to political and administrative negotiations through formula-based need assessments. Agreements such as the “Barnett Formula” for Scotland, Wales and England provide some stability of funding. However, despite their recent reaffirmation, these agreements could change if a future government decides that fiscal consolidation requires severe spending cuts.

The Scotland Act 2012 gave the Scottish Administration new taxation and borrowing powers. After the close outcome of the Scottish Referendum and as a result of the Smith Commission’s Report, the new Conservative government announced the devolution of further tax powers – including income-tax powers – to the Scottish Parliament. The details of additional borrowing powers for the Scottish Parliament were laid down in the Scotland Act of 2016, which allows the Scottish government to borrow £450 million a year for investment into infrastructure, such as schools and hospitals, up to a total of £3 billion.

The new government has announced a reform of local governance. This would mainly include a decentralization of decision-making, monitoring and spending powers to local mayors (an office which is quite unusual in the United Kingdom). Challenges are sure to arise in relation to task funding. Funding for mayoral combined authorities is often allocated on a negotiated basis, but this is to some extent a deliberate policy choice to ensure that devolution is bespoke to the needs of different areas.

The Welsh assembly has far less fiscal discretion, but central government has agreed that borrowing powers should also be devolved to the Welsh assembly and agreed on a fiscal framework. A new settlement for Northern Ireland has also been under discussion for quite some time, but agreement had not been reached at the time of writing. A debate on financial matters in England must also be expected.

Citations:
Scully, Roger/Jones Richard Wyn 2011: 7. Territorial politics in post-Devolution Britain, in: Heffernan, Richard et al.: Developments in British Politics 9, Basingstoke and New York

Smith Commission Report: http://www.smith-commission.scot/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/The_Smith_Commission_Report-1.pdf

Autumn Statement 2016: https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/autumn-statement-2016

To what extent does central government ensure that subnational self-governments may use their constitutional scope of discretion with regard to implementation?

10
 9

The central government enables subnational self-governments to make full use of their constitutional scope of discretion with regard to implementation.
 8
 7
 6


Central government policies inadvertently limit the subnational self-governments’ scope of discretion with regard to implementation.
 5
 4
 3


The central government formally respects the constitutional autonomy of subnational self-governments, but de facto narrows their scope of discretion with regard to implementation.
 2
 1

The central government deliberately precludes subnational self-governments from making use of their constitutionally provided implementation autonomy.
Constitutional Discretion
7
A distinction must be made between local authorities of England, on the one hand, and the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly of Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly, on the other hand. The devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland enjoy considerable autonomy from central government, in contrast to the strong restrictions on local authorities in England. In recent years, the trend has been reversed through measures stemming from the 2011 Localism Act. These measures substantially increased local authorities’ decision-making and spending powers over, for example, health care, skills training, transport, employment support, physical infrastructure investment and housing. In addition, the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016, in what can be seen as a limited push toward English devolution, established directly elected mayors for combined local authorities in England and Wales, so-called metro mayors. Eight elections for metro mayors were held in 2017.

The devolved parliaments in Scotland and Northern Ireland have ruled against the creation of directly elected mayors in their respective regions. The establishment of a directly elected mayor in England or Wales normally follows a local referendum, although neither Leicester nor Liverpool held a popular vote. However, in the majority of cases, voters opposed the establishment of a new mayoral office and one even revoked an existing office (Stoke on Trent in 2009). In June 2017, 17 cities had directly elected mayors, including London. However, one will be abolished in May 2019 following a referendum. As of 4 May 2017, there are also seven so-called metro mayors, who are the chairs of “mayoral combined authorities,” for instance in the Greater Manchester Area and the West Midlands. In addition, there are several indirectly elected mayors with comparable political powers and many localities have a purely ceremonial Lord Mayor.

Some further powers are shifting to the devolved administrations. Scotland’s increased tax powers are now in effect and being used: the 2017 Scottish Budget sets out new income-tax bands. Meanwhile, the New Welsh Land Transaction Tax was introduced on 1 April 2018. The return of powers from the European Union will lead to a significant increase in the decision-making powers of the Scottish and Welsh governments, and what is expected to be a restored Northern Ireland executive after a long political hiatus resulting from the collapse of the power-sharing executive in early 2017.

The political weight of these subsidiary authorities varies strongly and the substance of mayoral offices in the traditionally centralized political system of the United Kingdom is hard to measure. The number of mayors is clearly increasing, but remains remarkably low in comparison to the total number of authorities. However, several of the largest and most important cities of the country (e.g., London, Bristol, Greater Manchester and Liverpool City Region) have directly elected mayors. Notably, the Greater London Authority is headed by its mayor, the Rt. Hon. Sadiq Khan, and culturally and politically can almost be seen as a federated state within the United Kingdom.

An evaluation by the Council of Europe notes a general satisfaction with recent developments in the United Kingdom, but expresses concern about funding and “the limitation of local authorities’ discretion to manage local affairs through the intervention by various ministries of the central government.”

The Scottish Parliament and the Scottish government have become major political actors, especially through the Scotland Act 2016. Although the powers of the Scottish Parliament are revocable by central government, they should be considered permanent for political reasons. The Welsh and Northern Irish parliaments have considerable autonomy, granted for instance in the Wales Bill. However, these powers differ in degree from those held by the Scottish Parliament, although new financial powers are being devolved, such as the proposed introduction of a Northern Ireland rate for corporation tax. Even if some decisions by the Scottish government have antagonized central government, the central government has not intervened.

Citations:
Guide to Localism Act: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/5959/1896534.pdf

House of Commons Briefing paper SN05000 2016 – Directly elected mayors: http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN05000

To what extent does central government ensure that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services?

10
 9

Central government effectively ensures that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services.
 8
 7
 6


Central government largely ensures that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services.
 5
 4
 3


Central government ensures that subnational self-governments realize national minimum standards of public services.
 2
 1

Central government does not ensure that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services.
National Standards
7
There are supposed to be national standards for service delivery by local authorities or the parallel networks of agencies for specific policies such as the trusts running health care, but recent scandals have shown that implementation can be unsatisfactory and thus that there can be “postcode lotteries” in standards. Recently, the Care Quality Commission, a body designed to oversee the quality of health and social care, was criticized for a lack of transparency. A subsequent report by the National Audit Office found that, while there had been considerable improvements, shortcomings still needed to be addressed.

Although central government has the capacity to ensure national standards on this issue, it does not always do enough to “watch the watchers.” All members of the civil service are pledged to a range of codes (such as the Civil Service Code, the Directory of Civil Service Guidance) to ensure national standards in performance, conduct and delivery. In 2012, the Standards Board for England – which has scrutinized civil service commitments to the codes since 2000 – was abolished. The central government has encouraged local authorities to set up regional standards boards. This is in line with the Localism Act 2011, which changed the powers and scrutiny of local government in England. The ongoing Civil Service Reform, which started in 2012, established a new range of national standards, especially in skills, accountability, transparency and diversity, as recorded in the New Public Appointments Governance Code.

An agreement on common standards was reached between central government and the devolved administrations in October 2017 regarding powers returning from Brussels. In a similar vein, a new Appointments Governance Code came into effect on 1 January 2017.

Citations:
HM Government 2012: The Civil Service Reform Plan; http://resources.civilservice.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Civil-Service-Reform-Plan- acc-final.pdf https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Capacity-and-capability-to-regulate-the-quality-and-safety-of-health-and-adult-social-care.pdf

Adaptability

#18

To what extent does the government respond to international and supranational developments by adapting domestic government structures?

10
 9

The government has appropriately and effectively adapted domestic government structures to international and supranational developments.
 8
 7
 6


In many cases, the government has adapted domestic government structures to international and supranational developments.
 5
 4
 3


In some cases, the government has adapted domestic government structures to international and supranational.
 2
 1

The government has not adapted domestic government structures no matter how useful adaptation might be.
Domestic Adaptability
7
The organization of ministries in the United Kingdom is a prerogative of the prime minister, and traditionally the precise division of tasks between ministries apart from the classic portfolios of foreign policy, defense, the Treasury, and the Home Office has been subject to considerable change. There is some evidence for international and supranational developments playing an important role in these decisions on UK government structures, a clear example being the creation of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) with an explicit remit to engage in international action to mitigate climate change, although it has since been subsumed within new ministries following the change in prime minister in 2016. New cabinet committees have been set up, such as a committee on Syrian refugees in 2015. There have also been developments leading to new cross-departmental structures. The establishment of the National Security Council was a response to security-related issues, while the creation of a cross-governmental joint energy unit was motivated by the Ukraine crisis.

The United Kingdom has in some areas been an early, and sometimes enthusiastic, proponent of norms and practices that have been championed by international bodies, including those overseeing financial stability and transparency in government. The Open Data Charter and the Open Government Partnership (in which the United Kingdom plays an active role) were agreed under the United Kingdom’s G8 presidency. The United Kingdom is an acknowledged leader in open government and ranked 1 out of 115 countries in the 2016 Open Data Barometer.

Perhaps reflecting the prevailing UK attitude to “Brussels” before the decision to leave the European Union, there has been some resistance to policy recommendations from the European Commission, including the country specific recommendations associated with EU semester process, unless they accord with government priorities like tax avoidance and establishing trade links. There is less resistance to recommendations from, for example, the IMF, even when the recommendations of the IMF and European Union are similar.

In addition to the obvious reactions to Brexit, such as establishing a new ministry and cabinet committee, efforts are being made to develop trade policy capability, in order to respond to the expanding UK role in trade internationally. For example, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has worked with the Department for International Trade (DIT) and others to develop a cross-Whitehall Trade Policy and Negotiations Faculty in the FCO’s Diplomatic Academy. Nevertheless, after losing its influence on EU regulation, the United Kingdom will have to find new ways to influence international policymaking in their national interest.

To what extent is the government able to collaborate effectively in international efforts to foster global public goods?

10
 9

The government can take a leading role in shaping and implementing collective efforts to provide global public goods. It is able to ensure coherence in national policies affecting progress.
 8
 7
 6


The government is largely able to shape and implement collective efforts to provide global public goods. Existing processes enabling the government to ensure coherence in national policies affecting progress are, for the most part, effective.
 5
 4
 3


The government is partially able to shape and implement collective efforts to provide global public goods. Processes designed to ensure coherence in national policies affecting progress show deficiencies.
 2
 1

The government does not have sufficient institutional capacities to shape and implement collective efforts to provide global public goods. It does not have effective processes to ensure coherence in national policies affecting progress.
International Coordination
6
The United Kingdom has long played a leading role in coordinating international initiatives and the country’s imperial legacy has contributed to its active stance on international commitments. It has led global responses in recent years, for example, in efforts to eradicate poverty in Africa, coordinate the EU response to the Ebola outbreak, promote reform in the financial sector, and combat climate change and corruption.

As a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, the United Kingdom is very active in the United Nations in security matters and also plays a prominent role in NATO. Government structures, such as the National Security Council, ensure consistency. It led the way in supporting the Rohingya in October 2017.

However, following the decision to leave the European Union, the United Kingdom will have to rethink its role in the world, especially among its European neighbors. There is a risk that the demands on governance capacity of dealing with the various levels of negotiation will distract attention from wider global concerns. To this extent, domestic politics may be inhibiting international coordination.

Organizational Reform

#5

To what extent do actors within the government monitor whether institutional arrangements of governing are appropriate?

10
 9

The institutional arrangements of governing are monitored regularly and effectively.
 8
 7
 6


The institutional arrangements of governing are monitored regularly.
 5
 4
 3


The institutional arrangements of governing are selectively and sporadically monitored.
 2
 1

There is no monitoring.
Self-monitoring
8
Flexibility and informal meetings are a key feature of the government system, enabling it to respond in a way uniquely tailored to the situation at hand that has always been valued highly and is an essential constituent of prime ministerial government in the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, the Cabinet Office in particular has a remit to monitor the government’s functioning and does so through a range of mechanisms, which have been reinforced by recent civil service reforms, particularly civil service management procedures. A key change introduced by the new government is the introduction of the more wide-ranging “single departmental plans,” which replace the use of business plans. These single departmental plans set clear priorities for departments, encompassing manifesto commitments, critical business-as-usual activity, and efficiency and productivity initiatives. In addition, self-monitoring occurs through implementation task forces (a 2015 innovation which complements cabinet committees), regular assessments of progress by the Civil Service Board chaired by the cabinet secretary and a new so-called shadow civil service board. The shadow civil service board is composed of junior civil servants and charged with assessing specific projects and advising senior management. In response to critiques from Select Committees and the Institute for Government, the government revised its guidance on the Machinery of Government, placing greater emphasis on the importance of senior leadership and accountability.



This self-monitoring has been bolstered by a renewed commitment to open government and the public release of data. Executive monitoring is complemented by media scrutiny, parliamentary committees, various policy-specific statutory bodies and independent organizations, such as the Institute of Government. The Institute of Government stated that its task of monitoring central government was facilitated by the availability of data, “the fact we can produce this report supports that.” The dissemination of good audit practices has been encouraged by the publication of internal audit standards and there are periodic reviews of areas of governance concern, recent examples being an audit of race disparities and a review of national security capabilities.



Citations:
https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/civil-service/about/our-governance#civil-service-board https://civilservice.blog.gov.uk/2015/07/29/clarifying-our-priorities-single-departmental-plans/ https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/cabinet-committees-and-implementation-taskforces-membership-list
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/641252/PSAIS_1_April_2017.pdf

To what extent does the government improve its strategic capacity by changing the institutional arrangements of governing?

10
 9

The government improves its strategic capacity considerably by changing its institutional arrangements.
 8
 7
 6


The government improves its strategic capacity by changing its institutional arrangements.
 5
 4
 3


The government does not improve its strategic capacity by changing its institutional arrangements.
 2
 1

The government loses strategic capacity by changing its institutional arrangements.
Institutional Reform
8
As mentioned above, the organizational flexibility of both the core executive and the distribution of tasks to specific ministries is a core characteristic of the UK system of government. Cabinet reorganizations and new institutional arrangements have often been the prime minister’s weapon of choice to improve government performance. However, such reorganization can also be motivated by intra-party politics or public pressure, and it is difficult to systematically evaluate the success of specific measures in enhancing the strategic capacity of the government. Recent civil service reforms have also served to enhance strategic capacity, while various open data initiatives have increased government transparency.

Very substantial changes in governance do occur, with recent examples including the restoration of a lead role in financial supervision to the Bank of England, the alteration of the basis for financial regulation, and a shift in the balance between state, market and external agencies in the delivery of public goods.

The proposed separation of the United Kingdom from the European Union will test the system’s ability to reform and adapt. The creation of the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is a first attempt to ensure modern industrial strategies after Brexit.
Back to Top