Employee Relations in the Public Services: Themes and Issues

By Susan Corby; Geoff White | Go to book overview

9


Personnel managers

Managing to change?

Stephen Bach

The continuous process of public service reform that characterised the Conservative governments of 1979-97 reshaped the organisation and management of public services. The establishment of a variety of market regimes, coupled with a commitment to devolve authority to managers for operational performance, had major implications for the personnel function. These developments coincided with a substantial debate about the ideology and practice of human resource management, which in the public services were also influenced by theories relating to the new public management. Although there has been much confusion and disagreement surrounding the significance of these developments, by the mid-1990s there was a degree of consensus that, despite strict financial controls and the political sensitivity of public services, managers had been granted an unprecedented degree of discretion to shape the way they recruited, rewarded and deployed their staff and that they were using those freedoms to alter organisational values, enhance work force flexibility and enforce stricter performance standards. Whether these developments were to be celebrated as representing the successful transplantation of best personnel practice from the private sector or condemned as eroding the public sector ethos was widely debated (Colling 1997; Ferlie et al. 1996; Winchester and Bach 1995).

In the realm of policy prescriptions discussion of personnel practice has increasingly resembled the models of human resource management advocated in the private sector. No trust annual report or executive agency business plan would be complete without the mantra that ‘people are our most important asset’. As in the private sector there has been similar emphasis on developing a strategic approach towards the management of people, devolving responsibility to line managers and demonstrating that personnel specialists add value to their organisations. This is a far cry from the pre-occupations of the personnel function in much of the post-war period, when it was highly centralised and oriented to the implementation of standardised procedures which were relatively undifferentiated across the public services (Farnham and Horton 1996).

This chapter begins with a consideration of the different models of the personnel function before examining its historical development in the public

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Employee Relations in the Public Services: Themes and Issues
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Figures and Tables vii
  • Part I - Introduction 1
  • 1 - From the New Right to New Labour 3
  • Part II - Context 27
  • 2 - The Economic and Financial Context 29
  • References 51
  • 3 - The Legal Context 53
  • Part III - Issues 71
  • 4 - The Remuneration of Public Servants 73
  • References 92
  • 5 - Equal Opportunities 95
  • 6 - Employment Flexibility 114
  • 7 - Tendering and Outsourcing 136
  • 8 - Quality Management 156
  • Part IV - Players 175
  • 9 - Personnel Managers 177
  • References 195
  • 10 - Trade Unions 199
  • References 221
  • Index 225
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