chapter  14
12 Pages

The Thatcher Agenda, the Civil Service, and “Total Efficiency”

WithL. Dillman David

This chapter reviews the role that “efficiency” has played in past civil service reform efforts, describe the Thatcher reform agenda, and critically examine some of the characteristics and implications of that agenda. Civil service reform in Britain has been rooted historically in the political process. While efficiency and economy have long been goals of reform, they have competed with notions of representatives, accountability, political responsiveness, administrative ethics, and other values for prominence during reform debates. It was unthinkable “that a single value, however, important, could triumph over other values without explicit consideration being given these others”. The tension between increasing agency autonomy in a managerial culture and accountability is made clear by the evidence given to the Treasury and Civil Service Committee in 1988. The elements of this current debate—economy, efficiency, legitimacy, accountability, administrative ethics, and public service values—again remind public administrators that civil service reform is fundamentally concerned with defining the nature of responsible administration.