Party Control, Party Competition and Public Service Performance
33 Pages Posted: 14 May 2011
Date Written: May 12, 2011
There is a long controversy about the extent to which left and right parties determine the content of public policies, which is mainly limited to analyses of expenditures or policy programmes. As an extension to this work, we assess party effects on other policy outcomes that matter for citizens - the performance of public services. We examine a policy-seeking model, which hypothesizes that left and right party control affects performance, and an instrumental model where all parties strive to raise performance. Our framework also suggests a mixed model in which party effects are contingent on party competition, with parties raising performance as increasing party competition places their control of government at increasing risk. We test these models with panel data on English local governments’ party control and public service performance. The results question the traditional account of left and right parties. We find a positive relationship between right-wing party control and performance. The findings suggest that left-right models need to be reframed for the contemporary context. Party government based on capacity to implement positions is associated with better service performance than non-party government. However, consistent with the mixed model, the benefits of party government are contingent on a sufficiently high level of party competition.
Keywords: performance, public management, parties
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