Dr Muiris MacCarthaigh (QUB) – Public service reform in a time of cutbacks: Collaboration and the role of parliament
The financial crisis faced by political executives across Europe and the wider world has had a dramatic effect on public administration. In attempting to re-balance budgets, governments of varying political hues have adopted strategies to restructure the size and cost of the state bureaucracy. A common theme of such restructuring has been to economise by increasing the scale at which administrative functions are performed. This has been pursued by such means as centralisation, forging innovative partnership strategies, joint activities, consolidation of websites and using multiagency ‘shared services’. This presentation aims to advance policy-makers’ understanding of what makes for efficient collaboration in public service reform, and how the experience of cutbacks can be used to good effect to improve public services. New collaborative reform measures also raise questions about legislative capacity and the ability of legislators to scrutinise and ensure accountability for these new cross-organisational service delivery measures. Therefore, the presentation also addresses the role parliaments can play in overseeing and advancing reforms to achieve greater efficiency in government. In the context of ongoing budgetary cutbacks, it is timely for parliamentarians in Northern Ireland to consider the future shape and role of a smaller public service.