Distributed Public Governance in Britain



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.