Friday, 24 October 2014

Tweeting in government follows the flow of money and power - Dr Panos Panagiotopoulos, Lecturer in Management at Queen Mary

Public authorities mainly use social media to communicate with citizens. But they can also use networks like Twitter and LinkedIn to link people with expertise within the public sector. Unfortunately we still know little about how public officials use social media in this context. This article reports new research findings about these networks, from a study of tweets from the Twitter hashtag #localgov. We find that the pattern and direction of Twitter communication in government itself facilitates internal networking while reflecting the structure of power in the British state.

Every two years, Oxford’s Internet Institute runs the Internet, Politics, and Policy (IPP) conference. This year, the conference looked at crowdsourcing. The purpose was to inform policy debates as well as to advance social science research. New work was presented on crowdfunding, crowdlabour (see the Amazon Mechanical Turk) and government crowdsourcing. Research in the area is now less impressed by the size and power of the crowds and more interested in the composition of the crowds and in people’s motivation to join them. For example, the Zoouniverse platform is an impressive collection of citizen science websites. Visitors to the site can help research by classify galaxies according to their shape, because people are often better at pattern recognition than algorithms are. Nevertheless, it is hard to sustain crowdsourcing initiatives. You can find more detailed reflections from the conference and a full list of papers here.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Why Tory backbenchers might think twice before rebelling against Scottish “devo plus” – the politics of public spending and nationhood after the referendum - Prof Perri 6 - Chair in Public Management, Queen Mary

This is the second in a series of articles on this blog about the consequences of the Scottish referendum and the “vow” made by the three leaders of the main unionist parties. Having looked in the last piece at the likely development of Scottish National Party strategy to address the major public policy and public management challenges their programme faces, this article examines the implications for the public services of the positions emerging within the Conservative party.

The Conservatives' stance on the the terms and value of the union and on the governance of public spending in Scotland and the other countries of the UK now appears more divided than that party has been on these issues in their history.

Mr Cameron's “vow”, as part of his pitch to voters in Scotland to remain in the union, was that the Barnett formula on shares of public spending in the four countries would be maintained. As I argued in a recent post, Mr Cameron appeared – without clearly saying so – to allow Scots to expect that block grant payment to Scotland would not be reduced proportionately in response to tax increases made by the Scottish parliament under either its existing or new proposed tax-varying powers. Secondly, he committed his party to support additional powers for the Scottish parliament, which would include powers to control some taxes, although the details have yet to be settled. Based on the recommendations of the Conservatives' commission report chaired by Lord Strathclyde, we could expect much more extensive control over income tax for the Scottish parliament than Labour's or the Liberal Democrats' commissions recommended (see my brief summary analysis here).

Friday, 26 September 2014

What the Scottish Nationalists will do next – a better currency plan for the next referendum - Prof Perri 6 - Chair in Public Management, Queen Mary

Stone of Scone: Soon to be available in notes and coins
Developments in the middle east have moved Westminster politicians' attention, and that of London journalists, on from the fallout from the Scottish referendum. But expectations have now been raised both in Scotland for further devolved powers and in England for constitutional change which will soon return these issues to the top of everyone's agenda. Indeed, already the shape of the coming debate is becoming clearer.

This article considers first, what the Scottish National Party is likely to do next to pursue its aims, given the position that its 45% vote and the response of the Westminster politicians has put that party in. In later posts, I shall I turn to the question of how the two largest unionist parties might address the dilemmas each faces.

Having come fairly close to a majority for secession, the new leaders of the SNP who take over from Alex Salmond will be looking for an opportunity to capitalise on the momentum they were able to sustain in the final months of the 2014 referendum campaign. The “vow” made by the leaders of the three main unionist parties in their last-minute intervention to persuade wavering Scots to support the union will soon present the SNP with an opportunity. Because the vow's terms were so imprecise (see my article about its limitations published immediately after the leaders' statement, it should not be too difficult for the next SNP leader to declare whatever the government offers as being in default, by comparison with what the SNP will claim they were led to expect. Should Conservative backbenchers make determined effort to make the offer of further devolution for Scotland conditional upon reform of the voting system in Westminster on laws which are to apply only in England, the SNP will find it easier still to try to charge UK politicians with “reneging” on whatever the SNP claims the terms of the “vow” led it to expect. The next step for the SNP will be to claim that this default releases it from the terms of Mr Salmond's undertaking not to bring back the question of independence to a second referendum for “a generation”. It appears that many Scots expect no less. Lord Ashcroft's organisation polled Scots after the referendum, discovering no fewer than 45% of “yes” voters thought it likely that the SNP would find a way to bring the question back before the Scottish people within five years.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Devolution of Power: Post-Referendum Negotiation - Prof Janice Morphet, UCL

The constitutional crisis and chaos that has followed the ‘no’ vote has focussed primarily on England rather than the additional powers that will be given to Scotland. Is this just a distraction to encourage speculation and relief when a solution is found or is it rooted in a more fundamental need for change? Will this result in more practical changes being offered to all the nations of the UK on domestic policy matters such as local economic regeneration which have already started to devolve through Citydeals in England and Scotland?

The first issue to consider is the continued trend towards devolution and devolved decision making. Although devolution was an event in 1999, it has always been a process with further powers being added to those devolved in Scotland, Wales and London whilst Northern Ireland was included in the devolved settlement for the UK nations through the St Andrews Agreement in 2006. 

Monday, 22 September 2014

The Economic Consequences of the Scottish Referendum - Prof Brigitte Granville - Professor in International Economics and Economic Policy, Queen Mary

The political result of the Scottish referendum – the preservation of the Union combined with a commitment by the UK political class to devolve further powers to Scotland – has naturally led to most instant commentary being focused on the political and, more specifically, constitutional consequences.  By contrast, the economic results will have difficulty competing for the attention they deserve – especially what looks likely to be the most tangible economic result: higher taxes in Scotland. This change holds out the interesting prospect of increased competition within the UK as regards the balance between the tax burden and the quality of public services.

The likelihood of higher taxes in Scotland is clear from a straightforward analysis of the referendum campaign and result. The ‘Yes’ platform was overtly redistributionist. It depicted union with England as binding Scotland into fiscal restraints that reflected the preferences of the UK political class (especially as represented by the Conservative Party that is the dominant partner in the present UK coalition government) rather than the choices and needs of the Scottish people. The electorate clearly got that message. An analysis of voting patterns in the referendum shows that the ‘Yes’ vote was higher in areas where there were proportionally more voters with the greatest dependency on the welfare state – such as the unemployed and recipients of disability benefits.  Against this background, and on the safe assumption that the promised further instalment of devolution will focus on tax raising powers, it follows that future elections to the Scottish parliament are likely to be won on platforms of higher marginal taxation to finance increased public spending.

Friday, 19 September 2014

After the referendum “no” vote, what next? Part Three - Decentralisation within England – the four biggest difficulties - Prof Perri 6 - Chair in Public Management, Queen Mary

Now that the Scottish voters have rejected independence by a modest majority, debates begin in earnest and with urgency about what can happen next. This third post in the series considers the implications of the discussion about decentralisation within England, following the prime minister's remarks in his speech in response to the referendum result.

Mr Cameron said on the morning of 19th September “It is also important we have wider civic engagement about to improve governance in our United Kingdom, including how to empower our great cities. And we will say more about this in the coming days.”

Debate about this has been intense over several years. A series of commissions has published reports, including the City Growth Commission chaired by investor Jim O'Neill (its final report is due next month). But we cannot yet know which approach the government will propose. So here I confine myself to specific issues which have got lost in the mist of general encomium for the principle of greater decentralisation, but which will present major challenges of public management.

After the referendum “no” vote, what next? Part Two - Mr Danny Alexander's difficult position, and the prospects for executive accountability when Scottish MPs and ministers cannot vote on English matters - Prof Perri 6 - Chair in Public Management, Queen Mary

Now that the Scottish voters have rejected independence by a modest majority, debates begin in earnest and with urgency about what can happen next. This second post in the series examines the implications for the public services of Prime Minister Cameron's pledge to restrict the rights of Scottish MPs at Westminster to vote on issues designated as principally English or English and Welsh in application.

Mr Cameron announced that he will take Alexander the Great's sword to the Gordian knot of the “West Lothian question”. Because the issue has been debated since the first proposals for devolution for Scotland in the 1970s, commentators immediately recognised the implications for any future Labour government. More on this in a moment.

What has not been appreciated is the immediate consequence for Mr Cameron's own administration.

In my post of 17th September, I pointed out the difficulty that Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander would have had on Friday 19th September if the Scottish people had voted “yes”. Mr Cameron's announcement has in fact put his Chief Secretary in the same dilemma that I identified as the outcome of a “yes” vote.

After the referendum “no” vote, what next? Part One - The coming clash over money for the public services - Prof Perri 6 - Chair in Public Management, Queen Mary

Now that the Scottish voters have rejected independence by a modest majority, debates begin in earnest and with urgency about what can happen next. The leaders of the unionist parties have been made promises to the people of Scotland. Much of the discussion will now be about just what counts as having met those promises, and whether the measures which implement them will acceptable in England as well as in Scotland. This will carry major implications for public spending. Prime Minister Cameron's pledge to restrict the rights of Scottish MPs at Westminster to vote on issues designated as principally English or English and Welsh in application reopens hugely difficult constitutional problems and for the oversight and accountability of the public services. Finally, the final weeks of the referendum campaign exposed some vital issues of public management which have still not been adequately examined by the mainstream press and broadcasting companies. This set of post-referendum briefings  will explore each of these issues in turn. The first one examines the public spending issues which will now come to the fore.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Who will Britain's civil servants be working for on Friday morning? Urgent decisions this week, if there is a “yes” vote – but in whose interests? - Prof Perri 6 - Chair in Public Management, Queen Mary

If the people of Scotland vote for independence tomorrow, Thursday 18th, the process of separation will not, as too many politicians have suggested, be postponed for eighteen months of negotiation. It will begin around five in the morning on Friday, 19th September.
Civil servants in the Treasury, in the Bank of England, the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence and those parts of the Home Office which are responsible for immigration policy will immediately find themselves briefing ministers on how to negotiate with the Scottish government. De facto, therefore they will already be working for what will, in these hitherto reserved functions, be a “rump UK” government. More to the point, they will be advising ministers on how to protect the interests of England, Wales and Northern Ireland in those talks, not those of Scotland which will already be represented by the Edinburgh government. Long before independence would be announced, the role and accountability of senior London civil servants and the interests they serve will have changed drastically. They will have to adjust the advice they offer to ministers accordingly – and do it immediately when they start work on Friday morning.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Update to our brief guide for public managers to the implications of the Scottish referendum: what the unionist party leaders' vow means and doesn't mean - Prof Perri 6 - Chair in Public Management, Queen Mary

Within three hours of publishing our brief guide for public managers to the implications of the Scottish referendum, the leaders of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties published a “vow” in Scotland's “Daily Record”. Much has been in the press of the commitment made in that vow about public spending. Here is the sentence to which Mr Cameron, Mr Miliband and Mr Clegg put their names.

“And because of the continuation of the Barnett allocation of resources, and the powers of the Scottish parliament to raise revenue, we can state categorically that the final say on how much is spent on the NHS will be a matter for the Scottish parliament.”

This has been misrepresented in some of the press commentary. Some people have claimed that the leaders are committing themselves to putting the “Barnett formula”, which sets the shares of public spending for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, into legislation. But the vow makes no such promise. The formula is and has only ever been a piece of Treasury policy. In other words, it is an established convention.

Monday, 15 September 2014

A short guide for public managers to what the Scottish referendum means for the public services in the UK and in Scotland - Prof Perri 6 - Chair in Public Management at Queen Mary

In the final days of the campaigns for and against independence before the vote, politicians and journalists have given most of their attention to the big economic, business and constitutional issues. At the Centre for Government and Leadership, our role is to think about public services and public management. This short guide picks out some of the main things that managers of public services both north and south of the border need to think about.

Of course, if the people of Scotland do vote for independence, years of negotiation will follow. In that time, everything I talk about here will be raked over. Nothing is certain now. Much would change very quickly after a “yes” vote. So I make no apology for speculating. At this stage, everyone has to. The question is not whether to speculate, but how to speculate thoughtfully.

The guide is organised straightforwardly. First, I look at the implications of a “no” vote. Under that heading, the consequences for their counterparts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are considered first, before turning to impacts on the work of public managers in Scotland. Then the guide addresses the likely effects of a “yes” vote. Again, implications for public services the rest of the UK are considered first, before examining the consequences for Scotland. The conclusion considers the time horizon over which the effects might be felt.

This way of organising the issues means that the guide begins with some of the mildest effects but moves steadily toward some of the more dramatic ones.
This guide focuses on issues that have been largely neglected in the mainstream broadsheet press. It is devoted entirely implications for public managers. Therefore, it says nothing about party politics or about constitutional issues except as they affect the financing and redesign of public services.

Friday, 18 July 2014

How (not) to manage your civil service, or what is “stepping down” anyway? - Prof Perri 6, Chair in Public Management, Queen Mary

Times photographer Matt Lloyd

So he’s going. Sir Bob Kerslake, that is. “Sir Bob who?”, you ask. He has been head of the civil service in the United Kingdom since 2011. “And why does it matter?”, you want to know. Oddly, the commentariat doesn’t agree on just what the really big issue is in Sir Bob stepping down, only that there surely is one. In fact, five very different debates have been rolled together. Let’s disentangle.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Five key points about big data in government - Dr Panos Panagiotopoulos, Lecturer in Management at Queen Mary

Image source
“Big data” in government are the topic of the moment across the world. Public sector datasets have evolved to include large volumes of very diverse sources of information. They raise issues of privacy, security or information sharing, but also of design and training. To make good use of big data, public managers have to ask the right questions. Not only on the data but also to a new generation of “data scientists” on whom they depend. The post discusses five key points about how public managers need to prepare for working with big data.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

The Politics of Austerity and Public Policy Reform in the EU - A symposium edited by Dr Stella Ladi (Queen Mary University of London) and Dr Dimitris Tsarouhas (Bilkent University) in Political Studies Review

In the introductory article it is argued that the EU is at a critical juncture that will either trigger further political and economic unity or reinforce the voices that instead call for intergovernmental co-operation in place of formal union.  The spread of market pressure from Ireland, Greece and Portugal to Spain, Italy and Cyprus and also beyond has demonstrated that the sovereign debt crisis needs to be dealt with at the European and not just the national level.  Up to now the “politics of extreme austerity” has been the mainstream recipe promoted to and adopted by member states.  The measures are tougher in those countries where there has been external financial assistance from the EU and the IMF (i.e. Greece, Portugal and Ireland) but the rest of Europe is following suit (e.g. Italy and the UK). 

Friday, 2 May 2014

Professor Pedro Martins Interviewed on BBC Radio 4 Today Programme

Professor Pedro Martins, Professor of Applied Economics and lecturer on the Masters in Public Administration at Queen Mary, was interviewed on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning.

Professor Martins‘ interview focused on the three-year economic and financial adjustment programme of Portugal, which is coming to its end next month. This programme involved a package of 78 billion euros, provided by the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and a number of measures in terms of fiscal consolidation, financial system stability and structural reforms. 

Professor Martins argued that Portugal is likely to opt for a ‘clean exit’ from the current programme, implying no further financial support and no further conditionality, given the increasing confidence of financial markets in terms of the outlook for the Portuguese economy. Professor Martins also explained that, in his perspective, this likely successful exit – following the footsteps of the Irish Case - implies that the combination of structural reforms and austerity measures can deliver good results in terms of putting an end to the Eurozone crisis.  

Listen to the interview herethe interview takes place at 02:48:33 (available for 7 days). 

An economist by training, Pedro Martins served as employment minister in the Government of Portugal from 2011 to 2013. He joined Queen Mary in 2004, becoming a Professor in 2009, and is the Module Leader for ‘Economics of the Public Sector’ on the MPA. 

Friday, 14 March 2014

Sustainability, Resilience and Public-Private Partnerships from a Global Governance Perspective - Dr Georgios Kostakos, Executive Director, Foundation for Global Governance and Sustainability

One hears a lot about sustainable development or sustainability, to such an extent that these terms increasingly feel inflated or devoid of meaning. The concepts behind them, though, do matter and should not be abandoned because of abuse or over-use. Sustainable development has a glorious past, dating back to the Brundtland Report of 1987 and the UN Conference on Environment and Development, also known as Earth Summit, of1992. It was most recently reaffirmed at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20, held in June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Major new Queen Mary programme for Bosnia-Herzegovina with UK Foreign Office

Fellows at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with the UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague
The public management team in the School of Business and Management – which also runs the Queen Mary University of London Masters’ programme in Public Administration – won a major contract with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in late 2013 to run a course throughout the month of February 2014 in collaborative policymaking and public leadership for emerging new leaders from Bosnia-Herzegovina. The participants are the first cohort of Fellows on what the Foreign and Commonwealth Office hopes will be a series of leaders in that country from the new generation. Britain has a longstanding commitment to assist Bosnia-Herzegovina and Queen Mary has been delighted to be able to play its part.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Open Seminar: Sustainability, resilience and public-private partnerships from a global governance perspective - Dr Georgios Kostakos

Image: Rochester Factory Credit: Ben Reierson License: CC BY 2.0 

Centre for Government and Leadership
School of Business and Management
Queen Mary University of London

Open Seminar

12th March 2014 – 17:30

Guest Speaker: Dr Georgios Kostakos, Executive Director, Foundation for Global Governance and Sustainability (FOGGS)

Bio: Georgios Kostakos holds a PhD in International Relations and a Mechanical Engineering degree. He served on the secretariat of the UN Secretary-General's High-level Panel on Global Sustainability (GSP) as Senior Adviser and Acting Deputy Executive Secretary, and on many other positions at UN Headquarters, UN field missions, the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) and the University of Athens. He currently serves as Executive Director of the Foundation for Global Governance and Sustainability (FOGGS). His areas of expertise include global governance and sustainability, climate change, UN reform, conflict resolution, peacekeeping and peacebuilding. He maintains a current affairs blog:

Seminar title: Sustainability, resilience and public-private partnerships from a global governance perspective

Abstract: Sustainability is an often-used term in recent years, especially following the Rio+20 Conference of June 2012 and in view of efforts to arrive at a set of Sustainable Development Goals for the post-2015 period. One important element of sustainability and its three interconnected dimensions - namely social, economic and environmental - is resilience, the capacity of communities, institutions and individuals to bounce back after severe shocks. In an era of climate change, financial crises, food price hikes and water scarcity this is a key ingredient of sustainability, although not the whole of it. However, in the pursuit of growth and efficiency this is often forgotten or relegated to secondary importance. The seminar will focus on how sustainability and resilience are reflected, or not, in the public-private partnerships increasingly concluded at the global level, between international organizations and big private sector entities. Issues of delivery, representativeness, division of labour, respective responsibilities and capabilities, as well as overall accountability will be reviewed in this light, with suggestions for the future.

Research themes: Globalisation; Ethics and Politics; Public Management Group

Chaired by: Dr Stella Ladi

Location: Arts Two Lecture Theatre, Arts Two Building, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Campus, London, E1 4NS.

This is an open seminar, but please book your place online:

If you have any questions, please contact Naomi Britton Executive Education Administrator:

Monday, 3 March 2014

Six consequences of the Ukraine crisis for British government - Prof Perri 6, Chair in Public Management, Queen Mary

Image: Independence Square, Kiev, Ukraine - Credit: Sasha Maksymenko License: CC BY 2.0

Russia’s military intervention in the Crimea and perhaps more widely in the Ukraine will have longstanding consequences for government in Britain, and the impacts will be felt far beyond the Foreign Office and the diplomatic service. Six implications for British government are immediately obvious. In order from the shortest to the longest terms, six implications of the Russian occupation of the Crimea can immediately be identified for British government having to do loans, distractions, gilts, gas, missiles and boots and finally containers and pipes.