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Policy intervention and its impact: analysing New Labour's public service reform model as applied to local authority housing in England


Pawson, H and Jacobs, K, Policy intervention and its impact: analysing New Labour's public service reform model as applied to local authority housing in England, Housing, Theory and Society, 27, (1) pp. 76-94. ISSN 1403-6096 (2009) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright 2010 Taylor & Francis

DOI: doi:10.1080/14036090902764604


This paper discusses recent experience of public service reform in the UK, in terms of its theoretical underpinning, the mechanisms developed to effect change, and the impacts of change. Crucial aspects of the regime that have evolved under New Labour here include the roles of external inspection and quasi-markets. Our key claim is that a close study of the enactment of public service reform provides important insights about the conduct of government practices that are often absent in more abstract interpretations of governmentality. The paper first discusses interpretations of UK public sector reform that foreground the significance of neo-liberal ideology. Second, this discussion of neo-liberalism is used as a base to explore the distinctiveness of New Labour's reforms against the backdrop of the Conservative policies in the 1980s. While noting the orthodox justification for reshaping state welfare provision we suggest that a more agency focused analysis of these reforms is required if we are to understand their specific impact. Third, to support this argument, we investigate how "reform impacts" may be measured with reference to New Labour's reforms of local authority housing services. Overall, we conclude that while neo-liberalism is an important influence it is mistaken to assume a necessary causal relationship between ideology and practice. Instead research should seek to foreground the interstices and rival narratives that co-exist effectively within the institutions of government.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:neo-liberalism, public service reform, social housing, quasi-markets
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Policy and administration
Research Field:Urban policy
Objective Division:Law, Politics and Community Services
Objective Group:Government and politics
Objective Field:Public services policy advice and analysis
UTAS Author:Jacobs, K (Professor Keith Jacobs)
ID Code:58745
Year Published:2009
Deposited By:Sociology and Social Work
Deposited On:2009-10-21
Last Modified:2015-02-11

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