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By Christopher Pollitt, Colin Talbot, Janice Caulfield, Amanda Smullen (auth.)

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Extra resources for Agencies: How Governments Do Things Through Semi-Autonomous Organizations

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These were short illustrations of the fact that the existing literature is rich in possibilities for sorting and weighing the various contextual influences on the behaviours of ministries, agencies and their staffs. The main burden of this discussion is that cultural, managerial and task/technical variables are frequently likely to be crucial either for scientifically understanding what is going on in agencies, or practically for managing them. By contrast, approaches which extract the formal, structural forms of agency–ministry relations from these contexts and treat them in some general, abstracted way, are likely to be just that: general and abstract.

Writing from a US perspective, it is hardly surprising that this is what he saw as bureaucracy. The idea of organizing state activities – whether tax collection, policing or social services – in more or less autonomous and separate agencies is nothing new in the United States. Important US federal functions, such as forestry, posts and food and drug administration fought for, and won, substantial autonomy over both operations and policy in the early years of the twentieth century. This was consolidated in the governmental expansions of the New Deal, the Second World War and in the big post-war expansion of public services (Carpenter, 2001).

In my view by breaking down areas of responsibility in the Civil Service into tailor-made, discrete and clear-cut services, and moving away from a more amorphous body, we are likely to have a more effective civil service which will be of benefit to the government of the day and the public. Hon Richard Luce, then Minister for the Civil Service, in response to questions from the Parliamentary Modern Agencies – The Ideal Type 35 Treasury and Civil Service Committee, 10 July 1990: Treasury and Civil Service Committee, 1990, p.

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