What’s it like studying at INLOGOV?

Drs. Max Lempriere, Abena Dadze-Arthur and Karin Bottom

It is perhaps a little cliché to say that there’s never been a better time to study public management, whether in the context of local government or otherwise. The fact that local government has undergone significant reform over the years – a process that shows little sign of abating – is well known. Indeed, the political world is shifting before our eyes into something new, some would say exciting and certainly worthy of study. Clichés abound, life as a student of public management and local governance certainly won’t be dull.

Avoiding cliché then, perhaps its more apt to say that there’s never been a better time to study at The University of Birmingham’s Institute of Local Government Studies (INLOGOV). The University’s reputation is well recognized; it was 2013-2014 University of the Year, sits 13th in the 2017 Guardian University Guide and is among the top 100 best Universities in the world. As the UK’s leading centre for the study of local government and strategic public management, INLOGOV is well placed to make sense of what looks to many to be a chaotic system. Our research directly informs contemporary debates and legislative activity and the work we do with local authorities across the world is highly respected.

What is it like to study here, though? We offer a number of courses, taught by some of the leading authorities in the field, all of which are specifically designed to further your career in public administration, wherever in the world you choose to work. Whether you’re interested in a Masters degree, Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate and can commit full time or part time, we offer courses in Public Management, Public Service Commissioning and Social Research. It doesn’t even matter if you’re unable to physically come to the Birmingham campus; whilst INLOGOV offers courses in the form of a traditional brick-and-mortar degree, whereby students attend classes on campus, it also offers an internationally acclaimed Masters of Public Administration (MPA) online degree, whereby students do all their classroom activities outside the traditional classroom, at a distance from the University of Birmingham, and supported by technology-based tools.

For those looking for a more focused, research driven learning experience you can choose instead to undertake doctoral research, whether as part of an integrated learning package with a focus on public policy or a traditional research-driven doctorate (offered both on campus and through distance learning). Have a look at our website for an outline of our research interests.

In both the on-campus and distance learning courses, our students are very mixed in terms of their age, where they come from, and their experience of the public sector.  Typically, in INLOGOV’s master courses, students with backgrounds as mid-career public servants are rubbing shoulders with course participants who just graduated from their undergraduate studies.  For example, a fifty-eight-year-old minister in Jamaica’s government took our Masters in Public Administration a 25 year old who recently completed his undergraduate studies in social care in China.  This makes for a fantastic learning community, where the pedagogical focus remains on the learners and how they connect their varied experiences of public management to the theoretical concepts explored during the course.

In both our on-campus and online courses, we use high-quality learning resources, which also feature animated videos and interactive diagrams and theoretical models.  Mindful of the international nature of the student group who register for our masters programmes, we always add new literature on international public management and governance in the reading lists; we include a variety of contemporary case studies and examples of public management from around the world; we ask students to watch a series of short, BBC-documentary-style videos featuring practitioners and researchers from across the globe who discuss their particular experiences of public management and governance in their respective home countries; and we use an array of photo images to portray global diversity in public service delivery.

Although we use the same high-quality and interactive learning resources for on-campus and distance learning courses, there are of course important differences in terms of the learning environment, which meet different student needs.  Campus-based classes require students to attend classes in person and at specific times.  Online classes are free from the constraints of space, pace and time, and give students the flexibility to do their work in their own time and at their own pace, but require students to be very self-motivated, disciplined and comfortable with working independently.

Wherever you choose to take your degree – and students take it far and wide, whether as public servants, journalists, consultants, academics and so on – a degree from INLOGOV will serve you well.

For more information on the courses we offer and to find out about upcoming open days (whether virtual or on campus) please visit http://www.inlogov.bham.ac.uk. Alternatively, to keep up to date with the latest research and discussions from the department check out our blog at www.inlogov.com or follow us on LinkedIn and [email protected]

 

lempriereMax is an INLOGOV Associate and has a PhD in political science from the University of Birmingham. He has taught for a number of years on many aspects of politics, public administration, research methods and academic skills. Prior to that he read political economy at the University of Birmingham and Stockholm University. His research interests include institutional theory, environmental politics, local government innovation and policy entrepreneurship.

abenaAbena has taught on a variety of INLOGOV courses on various aspects of public management and governance to a) international distance learners, who complete the programme wholly online; b) in-house local government participants, and c) ‘on-campus’ students comprising a mix of full-time and part-time-registered practitioner students Abena’s research mainly focuses on non-western and post-western public management approaches that are rooted in local subject positions, indigenous norms and values, locally embedded representational and performative practices, and mirror local history, culture, and religious or philosophical traditions, while promoting public engagement, accountability and effective public services.

bottom-karin-20151113Karin is INLOGOV’s Director of Teaching and Learning and directs INLOGOV’s MSc in Public Management and lectures on modules concerned with 1) party politics; democracy and  public management; 2) research methods.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If Ministers want us to vote for mayors, why make it so hard?

Chris Game

Even allowing for all the undecideds and the “ooh-I’ve-not-heard-anything-about-it”s, opinion polls suggest that several, perhaps even most, of the ten referendums on May 3rd could produce Yes majorities for elected mayors. None suggest, though, that there isn’t everything still to play for. Why, then, are Government Ministers, who claim to want this potentially momentous change, making life so difficult for the Yes campaigners?

Two issues come up at every mayoral meeting: What additional ‘hard’ powers would a mayor in my city have? and How do we kick out one who’s no good? With the Localism Act offering little help, and Ministers even less, this blog attempts to provide some at least partial answers.

Powers were intended to be easy. In the original Bill, undefined additional powers – transferred ‘local public service functions’ – would go to mayoral authorities only. They were the bribe to get us to vote for the mayors that only false consciousness had prevented us realising we really wanted all along.

But the Lords crucially amended this bit of the Bill, enabling functions to be transferred to any ‘permitted authority’, provided the transfer “would promote economic development … or increase local accountability”.  The mayoral bribe had gone – replaced only by a thinly disguised code.

December’s Cabinet Office prospectus, Unlocking Growth in Cities, stated that cities wanting significant new powers and funding would “need to demonstrate strong, visible and accountable leadership and effective decision-making structures” –universally interpreted as having an elected mayor.

This document launched the Government’s policy of ‘City Deals’ – bespoke packages of new powers, projects and funding sources, negotiated with the leaders of individual cities, in exchange for an agreement to work with the Government, the private sector and other agencies to unlock these cities’ “full growth potential”.

It sounds encouragingly localist – until you realise the Catch-22.  Ministers want to negotiate individual city deals with elected mayors; they can’t say what any specific deal will comprise without knowing who they’ll be negotiating with; but voters, unless they know the likely content of their deal, are much less likely to opt for mayors.

Though inconvenient, this logic might just be acceptable, had Ministers themselves not completely ignored it in publicising early deals with one city still to elect a mayor and another outspokenly opposed to the whole idea.

Ministers could yet decide, as was hinted at before the Budget, to reveal some meaningful detail about the discussions already held with the leaderships of other referendum cities, but it now seems unlikely.  Yes campaigners, therefore, must make the most of the Liverpool and Greater Manchester deals that we do know about – by no means, as it turns out, too discouraging a task.

Liverpool’s city deal was announced on February 7th – the same day as the Labour Council, bypassing its electorate, took the decision itself to have an elected mayor who, once elected on May 3rd, would lead its implementation.

All involved insisted, however, that the deal was not dependent on the city having a mayor – which means that any city whose electors have actually voted for a mayor will surely expect to negotiate a deal worth proportionately at least as much as Liverpool’s.

Liverpool Council’s website headlines the deal’s additional economic development money as initially £130 million – “including £75 million of new money from government” – with the potential to grow to between £500 million and £1 billion.

Other goodies include: an Environmental Technology Zone, with the resulting growth in business rate income going to the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and five Mayoral Development Zones; a Mayoral Investment Board to oversee the city’s economic and housing strategy; and a Secondary School Investment Plan to build 12 new secondary schools.

Sceptics will, entirely reasonably, note the big questions here barely even addressed. How much of all of this is genuinely new money, as opposed to money that would have come to Liverpool anyway from existing or abolished funding sources?  How much of this city deal has to be shared with the city-region LEP? How much freedom of action will the Mayor have to do things that Ministers don’t like? And, of course, the perennial question of additional revenue-raising, as opposed to capital-raising, powers.

However, even to Kenny Dalglish and Liverpool FC, £500 million-plus is hardly loose change. Moreover, most of what relatively little criticism there has been of the package came, significantly, only after the announcement of Greater Manchester’s deal, whose ‘earn back’ tax provision – the first allowing local government to take directly a slice of national taxes – was rightly acknowledged as a genuinely ground-breaking policy innovation.

Importantly, Manchester’s is not a deal with the City Council, but with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) – the strategic authority for all ten Manchester boroughs, whose statutory city region status is clearly accepted by Ministers as having at least the strength and accountability of a city mayor.

Under the deal the GMCA will invest £1.2 billion in infrastructure to promote economic growth, and – the headline bit – will be able to earn back up to £30 million of the extra growth-generated tax revenues to reinvest in a revolving infrastructure fund, in which the money is returned on a payment-by-results basis.

The whole deal aims to create and protect a total of over 6,000 jobs, with other provisions – including devolution of the Northern Rail franchise, 6,000 more apprenticeships, a low carbon hub, and up to 7,000 new homes through a Housing Investment Board – detailed on the DCLG website.

Its total potential impact on the city and regional economy is huge, and, exceptional as the GMCA may be, this publicised deal has to be seen as a massive precedent, and, surely, a major addition to the Yes campaigners’ armoury.

Removal of mayors should also have been settled by now. In its Impact Assessment in January 2011, the Government asserted (p.9) that, if mayors were going to exercise additional powers and freedoms, the accountability regime should include a recall mechanism – to be introduced “at a later date … having considered the issue alongside proposals for recall for other public officials.”

It would have been useful had Ministers reminded voters of this pledge and given some vague hint of when the “later date” might arrive. Still, it remains Government policy, and the answer, therefore, to the question: “If we’re going to directly elect a mayor, how can we directly unelect a rubbish one?” is that, by the time the possibility arises, some recall mechanism should, as promised, be in place.

But what kind of mechanism?  The Warwick Commission Report on Elected Mayors seems to suggest that “an appropriate recall process”, enabling the removal of a mayor “in extremis”, might be one exercised through a no confidence vote by the full council (pp. 10,34). Which is not dissimilar to the Government’s current attempt to introduce a recall mechanism for MPs, controlled by other MPs, rather than by voters – and rapidly unravelling as a consequence, which probably explains why Ministers are keeping so stum about recall for mayors.

In what is supposed to be a major extension of direct democracy, “an appropriate recall process” would seem logically to be one in which voters are the key players. A set percentage of a disgruntled electorate sign a petition, and thereby trigger a recall vote in which those same electors are asked if they want their mayor to be recalled, with a Yes vote triggering in turn a by-election.

Finally, there is the in extremis issue. The Recall of Elected Representatives Bill – the one introduced, regrettably, not by the Government, but as a Private Member’s Bill by Conservative MP, Zac Goldsmith – proposes that recall should kick into action not in extremis, but in any circumstances in which representatives lose the confidence of their electorate: if, say, they’ve acted financially dishonestly or disreputably, intentionally misled the body to which they’ve been elected, broken promises made in an election address, or behaved in a way likely to bring their office into disrepute (Clause 1(2b).

It’s almost certainly not what Ministers have in mind, but I bet it wouldn’t half boost the Yes vote on May 3rd and maybe even the turnout.

Chris is a Visiting Lecturer at INLOGOV interested in the politics of local government; local elections, electoral reform and other electoral behaviour; party politics; political  leadership and management; member-officer relations; central-local relations; use of consumer and opinion research in local government; the modernisation agenda and the implementation of executive local government.

Elected Mayors: Prospects for Change

Ian Briggs

The imperfections in our local democratic systems have for seemingly ever been a source of attention and fascination for researchers though the popular attention given to the abandonment of the old committee system and the introduction of a cabinet form of local governance has rarely sparked the imagination of the average citizen. Until now perhaps – with the advent of the powerful local mayor, he or she may provide an individualised loci of attention for local people, businesses and other metropolitan institutions.

The recent Warwick Report does introduce a few more interesting and potentially problematic issues to the ones that are aired in the popular media – the assumed acceleration of inward investment, questions around the role of the necessary ‘close political advisers’ that mayors need and not least the risk of opening the door to single issue or extreme perspectives. This latter point puts me in mind of some years ago the popular support for the executive mayor in Oslo being elected on an anti Gypsy platform.

The pragmatic part of me says that we are likely to resist this given the relative power of our two/three party system. However, the question of are we to have elected mayors or not seems to overshadow the more important question of what do we as citizens want our elected mayors to do? So far there has been little debate on this perspective – here I might suggest a list of things that should occupy them from the start;

1. The drought – we used to call them the ‘water rates’; in that we paid them as a local tax much like the rates on our properties but with shift towards the ‘consumer or customer citizen’ we pay a consumer charge to what is often a non UK based company that returns a healthy profit. True, some of the profit is returned to the country as tax but the business strategy of the provider company is their own concern and they set priorities as they see fit. Could a powerful elected mayor make life so uncomfortable for these ‘businesses’ that they change their operating mechanisms and place more emphasis upon infrastructure renewal and prevent the leakages of supply? Perhaps the mayor could set an example by only showering every other day too?

2. Winter weather – could a powerful mayor reduce to an absolute minimum the gritting and salting of urban roads? Certainly there will be a knock on effect in increased minor (slow speed) traffic accidents and  for many slower journeys to work and the shops. Could they then redirect the gritting to the pavements making it easier for people to walk? A&E departments live in dread of icy and snow covered pavements where especially older residents slip and fall and cost the country untold millions in hip replacements and that is without considering the pain and suffering caused being reduced.

3. Co-production – I have to admit I am a fan of this and I would like to see powerful mayors set an example – they are going to be very busy people so despite having huge pressures on their diaries I would want to elect a powerful mayor who makes the commitment to only work in the role for four days a week – the other two (for they should only have one day off over the week end) they should don overalls and go litter picking and undertake graffiti removal from our underpasses and urban streets. The second day they should apply their culinary skills and help feed the needy and disadvantaged who live below the line. This would really set an example – and here’s the clever bit – when they seek re election we judge them on their co production performance and not on some spooked up external performance measure.

Somehow I feel that we are replacing one imperfect system with another – it won’t be many months into a new breed of metropolitan mayors taking office before we see them falling into all old systems of operating and the perpetuation of the media, academics and politicians of all hues pointing out what they are doing wrong and calling yet again for a change for the better in the way that we citizens are represented.

Ian Briggs is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Local Government Studies.  He has research interests in the development and assessment of leadership, performance coaching, organisational development and change, and the establishment of shared service provision.

Have public sector leadership programmes failed so badly?

From the late 1980’s a new sub industry emerged in the UK public sector, mass sector wide leadership development programmes. The Health sector was well and truly into this game by this time with huge programmes developing future leaders and the local government sector followed swiftly behind. The very best of these programmes were based upon the assumption that investment was needed to ensure a steady supply of fit for purpose leaders and good, imaginative national programmes attracted an interesting cadre of supporters and participants, some who signed up were clearly ambitious and needed successful participation in these programmes on their CV’s to be even considered for the next job up the organisational scale, others were, on reflection pushed on these programmes to ‘cure’ them of old habits or wake them up to rapidly changing circumstances.

Did they work? Well the evidence is mixed but some who participated on these programmes are now in the top jobs and others have sunk without trace. But was the programme itself a key determinant of success? Perhaps they were destined to have sharp inclines on their career trajectories anyway and the programme was at best incidental in helping them get there. But in a world where every last penny is squeezed out of budgets to fund the front line services and the best development on offer now which incidentally is free (just browsing the net?) as the remaining option means we might be missing a trick? The research evidence on how people get into top jobs is a bit hazy – the best we can glean from it is twofold – getting early experience of project based corporate working and that past performance (whilst not always the most reliable predictor) remains as the best predictor of future performance. There have also been a few interesting hiccoughs upon the way – the National College for School Leadership was a brave if not brazen attempt to demonstrate that professional classroom competence was just not enough to lead a complex entity such as a school – even if they seem to have succumbed to the magnetic pull back into professionalism as opposed to true leadership – and the National Graduate Programme for Local Government has had a bit of a stop/start journey to where it is today.

But now, as we are hollowing out many of our public sector organisations – senior strategic staff are doing the administrative work because all the expensive administrators and middle managers have been made redundant we need to find a way of bringing these hungry, ambitious and talented people out of their shells and help them find ways of transforming our public bodies. Doing it by ‘browsing the net’ will not work. Leadership development is about carefully planned and facilitated constructive socialisation – it is not about reading and knowing more about leadership theory (as interesting as that is anyway) but unless we can find the development opportunities, at the right cost, in the right place and at the right time we are running the risk of facing all the same problems we were dealing with a quarter of a century ago.

The Centre for Leadership at the University of Birmingham (CLUB)  is starting to open up this debate once again – can we find a way to rethink leadership development and inspire, not ignore those who are on the steep career trajectories? We think there is a way – keep watching this space. Leadership development cannot be done without some investment in time and energy as well as a modest financial contribution. We need to bring those people who are genuinely striving to become better leaders together, they need to spark off each other, test out their ideas and clarify how they impact upon those they are there to lead. As someone once said “Leadership – it’s a contact sport and not a virtual reality”

 

Ian Briggs - Inlogov

Ian Briggs (Senior Fellow)
Research interests lie in The development of effective leaders, leadership assessment and the identification of potential; Performance coaching, organisational development and large scale leadership development interventions; Organisational change and the establishment of shared service provision.