New public management
1-NPM history and evolution
A-Performance measures in historical perspective
It might seem that debates on the effectiveness of techniques associated with NPM have at best a very limited historical dimension as most academic commentators have taken the view that NPM, as a programme of public-sector reform, dates from the early 1980s. However, this does not mean that techniques identified with NPM and debates around such techniques do not predate NPM as a reform programme. To illustrate the operation of public management 'before NPM' three examples are used. The following selection criteria are deployed: that performance measures linked to a policy goal and mechanisms designed to 'improve' performance in terms of the indicators are used; and that the public-sector programme in which the performance management techniques are applied has substantial population coverage, i.e. these are examples of substantial public-service programmes. The examples used are: the attempt to manage performance standards in elementary education following the 'Revised Code' of 1862 till the de facto abandonment of the policy in the mid-1890s; the 'crusade against out relief' under the Poor Law in England and Wales between circa 1870 and the early 1890s; and attempts to encourage higher acute hospital throughput in the National Health Service (NHS) in the 1950s. The term 'elementary education' was used in nineteenth-century Britain to refer to the formal education provided for the working class. At the point at which the Revised Code was introduced the state provided subsidies to voluntary provision of elementary education (in the two decades preceding the introduction of the Code, central government expenditure on education had quadrupled). Over the period during which the policy operated (to 1895) the number of children in state-regulated elementary schools in Great Britain increased almost fivefold from just fewer than 1 million to 4.9 million (the total population increased from 23.7 to 34.6 million over the same period). Grants were regulated by 'codes' and the Revised Code, which was introduced in English schools in 1863, was designed to deal with a perceived deficiency in elementary education. It was argued that teachers devoted excessive time to teaching older children and consequently neglected the instruction of younger pupils in what would be currently called 'basic skills'. The 'performance management' policy introduced by the Code was to link grant payments to schools with the success of children in examinations in elementary reading, writing and arithmetic, where failure in any of these subject areas, in an examination administered by a government inspector, would result in loss of a substantial portion of the grant. Over the three decades of its operation the policy went through a series of complex modifications. By the mid-1890s a diverse set of objections to the original concept of linking grant to pupil examination performance engendered a shift to a pattern of inspection which removed the obligatory annual examination and allowed inspectors to base their reports on observation of work in schools. The 'crusade against out relief' was a policy which sought radically to reduce numbers on 'outdoor relief' under the locally-administered Poor Law in England and Wales from circa 1870 to the early 1890s. In this period the Poor Law constituted the de facto 'social security' system. At the point at which the policy was initiated there were just over 1 million 'paupers' in England and Wales: around 4.5 per cent of the population. Most poor relief was given 'outdoors', i.e. without requiring the recipient of support to enter a workhouse, and at the beginning of the 'crusade' well over 80 per cent of paupers received outdoor relief. The policy was premised on the assumption that outdoor relief was being given indiscriminately, creating 'dependence' on the state. The appropriate response, it was argued, was to...
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