The governance and management of public services : an analysis of three rationalities
The search for enhanced rationality in the governance and management of UK public services is an enduring theme of reform programmes. Three modes of rationality had a significant impact during the period 1977-1997: the rationality of disengagement, which suggests that there are benefits to be derived from the governance of public services by boards of appointed individuals operating at arm's-length to the democratic process; the rationality of integration, which concerns the advantages to be gained from the development of interrelationships between agencies around particular public policy objectives; and the rationality of congruence, which stresses the need for local authorities' policies and service delivery processes to reflect the views and preferences of their communities. The origins and characteristics of these three themes are examined and their effect on public services assessed. Together, they have produced a significant transformation of the management and governance of UK public services. The analysis suggests that, at a macro level, the underlying problems of governance and management each rationality seeks to address recycles over a period of time. Reform strategies materialise through a 'garbage-can' model in which current problems are attached to the prevailing fashionable solutions. However, there is also a developmental process in operation. The intersection of the three rationalities offers an agenda for future research.