Antecedents to new public management reforms in the UK

Robson, N. (2010) Antecedents to new public management reforms in the UK. In: Accounting Business and Financial History Conference, Cardiff, UK, 14th-15th September, 2009. Available from:

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This paper examines cost and management accounting reforms in the UK central government. It provides a historical context to the subsequent reform fervour associated with New Public Management (NPM) (Hood, 1995) and offers some explanations for the underdeveloped state of accounting up to the mid 1970s. It suggests that the perceived ‘failure’ of the Army Costing Experiment restrained the development of cost accounting, both before, and after, the Second World War and it was, instead, the Treasury inspired Organisation and Method techniques that became dominant (Walkland and Hicks, NAUK, T316/2; Agar, 2003). This continued into the early 1950s with the influential Crick report on government accounting promoting the status quo rather than accounting change. The marked change in political, economic and social forces in the late 1950s (Theakston, 1995: p.84), coupled with the introduction of Programme Planning Budgeting Systems (PPBS) in the United States fuelled a renewed interest in the measurement of outputs and management accounting information (Cook, 1986). This was followed by limited institutional change, with the introduction of a Management Accounting Unit at the Treasury. But the failure of PPBS in the USA, together with reservations within the civil service and the Fulton Report’s (1968) call for responsible management, all contributed to the rejection of government accounting along programme lines and led instead to the selective investigation of government expenditure (Gray and Jenkins, 1982; Heclo and Wildavsky, 1981). These investigations owed more to Organisation and Methods than accounting, but it would be the dormant accounting technologies, debated in the 1960s, that would eventually reappear as NPM. Key words: civil service, accounting change, PPBS, accounting history, NPM

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords:civil service, accounting change, PPBS, accounting history, NPM
Faculty/Department:Faculty of Business and Law > Department of Accounting, Economics and Finance
ID Code:12385
Deposited By: Dr N. Robson
Deposited On:12 Jan 2011 15:11
Last Modified:29 Jan 2017 08:15

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