Letting go and holding on: The politics of performance management in the United Kingdom

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Matthews, F. (2015)
  • Publisher: SAGE Publications

This article analyses the politics of performance management in the United Kingdom, focusing on the extent to which a highly centralised Westminster majoritarian polity has encouraged the top-down control of public services. It does so by comparing the approaches to performance management that prevailed under the Labour Governments (1997-2010) and the Coalition (2010-15) to demonstrate the degree of continuity that exists between the ostensibly divergent approaches that each sought to develop. It particular, the article reveals that despite various promises to ‘let go’, successive governments have instead sought to ‘hold on’ to the detail of delivery, which has resulted in a burgeoning disconnect between ‘managers’ and ‘the managed’. Presenting the results of an extensive programme of original empirical research, this article is therefore of significance for theories of performance management, and illuminates the connection between macro-level ‘patterns of democracy’ and meso-level ‘patterns of public administration’.
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