Agency responses to termination threats: a strategic-relational theory of quango reform in UK government

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This paper opens new ground in the study of agency termination by focusing on the strategic response of semi-autonomous public organisations (quangos) to the threat of reform. It repositions the theoretical debate by showing how strategic-relational theory provides important new insights into the dynamics of reform. This positions agencies as active players who strategise to shape reform proposals through an appreciation of relevant structural factors. Our paper thus moves beyond the large-N population ecology analysis that pre-dominates in this sub-field, and which implicitly locates agencies as passive actors, to provide a more complete understanding of the politics of agency reform. The paper analyses qualitative data on the strategic appreciation and responses of elite actors in 12 agencies subject to reforms proposed by the UK Coalition government during 2010-2013. We draw three conclusions: the context is strategically selective in favouring agencies’ technical responses regarding its functions; there is a strong contextual norm that selects out challenges to proposals for organisational termination or reform; and information asymmetry in relation to the sponsor ministry selectively favours bodies with more complex functions.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPolitical Studies Association Conference 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013
EventPolitical Studies Association Annual Conference, 54th -
Duration: 1 Jan 2004 → …


ConferencePolitical Studies Association Annual Conference, 54th
Period1/01/04 → …


  • agency, reform, termination, quango, coalition

ASJC Scopus subject areas