How and why certain policies are adopted by government and with what consequences is a key issue in politics parties and one to which the Centre makes a distinctive contribution.
How government and other agencies respond to the proliferation of drug use is both a critical social and political question, one addressed by Sue Pryce. Her work looks at how policy in this area is formed as well as the extent to which international commitments shape British responses – and also assesses what policy is meant to achieve and how its impact can be measured.
Public Sector Restructuring and ‘Reform’
Public sector regulation, restructuring and public service ‘reform’ have been a key battleground between the political parties since the 1980s. Andrew Denham has been actively involved in addressing questions such as: what have been the key developments in health, education and welfare policy since 1997; how have those changes occurred, and why; and to what extent, and why, has the quality of public services improved or deteriorated as a result? Vivien Lowndes has undertaken work on local government restructuring, with a particular focus on the role of neighbourhoods in decision-making and service delivery. What are the trade-offs involved in ‘going local’ – between local choice and equity, cohesion and pluralism, and capacity and accessibility? Is small always beautiful?
Citizen Participation and Governance
The emergence of new forms of governance has transformed the way in which public policy is made and public services are delivered - and opened up new arenas for political representation and contestation. Much of Vivien Lowndes’ work looks at the growth of multi-agency partnerships and networks. How do stakeholders from the public, private and voluntary/community sectors work together? Are the new arrangements more or less ‘democratic’? It is claimed that new forms of governance, particularly at the local level, open up opportunities for citizen participation and community involvement in public policy. The Coalition’s promotion of ‘localism’ and fostering of the ‘Big Society’ is the latest iteration of a long running debate. Supported by the Council of Europe, she has developed the CLEAR diagnostic tool (with Gerry Stoker and Lawrence Pratchett) as a way of assessing the barriers and facilitators to participation.