Public Service Efficiency: Reframing the Debate, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Public Service Efficiency

Reframing the Debate, 1st Edition

By Rhys Andrews, Tom Entwistle


176 pages | 5 B/W Illus.

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Paperback: 9781138206120
pub: 2016-08-04
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The current economic and political climate places ever greater pressure on public organizations to deliver services in a cost-efficient way. Focused on the costs of service delivery, governments across the world have introduced a series of business like practices – from performance management to public-private partnership – in the belief that these will increase the efficiency of their public services. However, both the debate about public service efficiency and the policies and practices introduced to advance it, have developed without a coherent account of what efficiency means in this context and how it should be realized. The predominance of a rather narrow definition of the term – very often focused on the ratio of inputs to outputs – has tended to polarise opinion either for or against efficiency agenda.

Yet public service efficiency, more broadly conceived, is an inescapable fact of the public manager’s task environment; indeed in the past, the notion of efficiency was central to the emergence of the field of public administration. This book will recover public service efficiency from the relatively narrow terms of recent debates by examining theories and evidence relating to technical, allocative, distributive and dynamic efficiencies.

In exploring the relationship between efficiency and democracy, this book will move current debates in public administration forward by reflecting on the trade-offs between the different dimensions of efficiency that public organizations confront.


Andrews and Entwistle deliver an innovative approach to public service efficiency that carefully crafts theory and practice around a multifaceted concept of efficiency. Simplistic ideas of Economic and Pareto efficiency, that have dominated political aspirations for public administration for far too long, are dismantled using a critical and realist approach. This highlights the trade-offs and contradictions that public managers experience in their day-to-day practice. I commend their four faces model to practitioners and students, as it will aid understanding of the challenges managers experience when trying to improve services. Most important of all this books takes us beyond a preoccupation with productive efficiency to reconnect service improvements with democratic and public values.

Philip Haynes, Professor, University of Brighton, UK

Efficiency is a concept which has widespread use in everyday conversation. Andrews and Entwistle address the fallacy of the everyday understanding of this term by their discussion of the complexities of this concept in this book. This is a nuanced critique of efficiency in the setting of public management, an area of study which is highly contested and which is beset by `wicked` policy problems. The authors offer a powerful assembly of ideas of efficiency for both serious scholars of, and policy makers in, public management.

Irvine Lapsley, Editor, Financial Accountability & Management, and Director, IPSAR, University of Edinburgh Business School, UK

The book makes the case for rethinking how to apply public service efficiency in public administration. Compelling arguments are presented for a multi-dimensional approach that covers democratic and economic elements and the interaction between the dimensions.John Halligan, Professor, University of Canberra, Australia

Andrews and Entwistle also remind us in the conclusion that productive efficiency, distributive efficiency, dynamic efficiency, and allocative efficiency are not new ideas. However, putting them under the big umbrella called ‘efficiency’ may motivate scholars to find a better way to reconcile them, combine them, and balance them…this attempt to reconcile and balance the different faces of efficiency is probably another merit of Andrews and Entwistle’s book.

Chung-An Chen is an assistant professor in public administration and public policy at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Table of Contents

1. Introduction 2. What is Public Service Efficiency? 3. Technical Efficiency 4. Allocative Efficiency 5. Distributive Efficiency 6. Dynamic Efficiency 7. Managing for Efficiency in a Democracy 8. Conclusion

About the Authors

Rhys Andrews is Senior Research Fellow at Cardiff University, UK. His primary research interests are in strategic management, social capital, organizational structure and public service performance. He is co-editor of the International Public Management Journal

Tom Entwistle is Senior Lecturer in Public Policy and Management and director of the Master’s in Public Administration at Cardiff University, UK. His primary research interests are in the areas of local governance, central-local relations, public-private partnerships and public service performance

About the Series

Routledge Critical Studies in Public Management

The study and practice of public management has undergone profound changes across the world. Over the last quarter century, we have seen

  • the increasing criticism of public administration as the over-arching framework for the provision of public services
  • the rise (and critical appraisal) of the ‘New Public Management’ as an emergent paradigm for the provision of public services
  • the transformation of the ‘public sector’ into the cross-sectoral provision of public services
  • the growth of the governance of inter-organizational relationships as an essential element in the provision of public services

In reality these trends have not so much replaced each other as elided or co-existed together – the public policy process has not gone away as a legitimate topic of study, intra-organizational management continues to be essential to the efficient provision of public services, whist the governance of inter-organizational and inter-sectoral relationships is now essential to the effective provision of these services.

This series is dedicated to presenting and critiquing this important body of theory and empirical study. It will publish books that both explore and evaluate the emergent and developing nature of public administration, management and governance (in theory and practice) and examine the relationship with and contribution to the over-arching disciplines of management and organizational sociology. Books in the series will be of interest to academics and researchers in this field, students undertaking advanced studies, and reflective policy makers and practitioners.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Affairs & Administration
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Economic Policy
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / General