Flinders, Matthew (2004):

Distributed Public Governance in Britain

Public Administration Vol. 82 No. 4, 2004 (883–909)




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13/9 2007

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The structure of the British state is growing increasingly complex. This trend raises a
number of questions that focus on the forces stimulating this complexity and its
implications both for society-state relationships and the design and implementation
of public policy. This article focuses on one specific element or strand of these
debates: the growth in the number and role of quasi-autonomous public bodies
within Britain. It seeks to analyse and reflect upon the distinctive approach taken by
the Labour government, since winning office in May 1997, in relation to the sphere of
‘distributed public governance’ in Britain. Moreover, the article seeks to locate this
analysis within broader debates surrounding the future of the British state and the
Labour government’s approach to statecraft through a thematic framework based
around: growth, co-ordination, accountability, depoliticization and power. The central
argument of this article is that the Labour government has increased considerably
the sphere of distributed public governance in Britain. This process has been
largely devoid of an underpinning rationale and this may have significant implications
for successful policy delivery, the public’s trust in government and the future
trajectory of the British state.