Policy iPad or policy New Coke?
In the Institute’s new reports on better policy making, we suggest seven building blocks of a good policy:
- Clarity on goals
- Open idea generation and robust use of evidence
- Rigorous policy design
- Responsive external engagement
- Thorough appraisal of options
- Clarity on role of central government and accountabilities
- Mechanisms for feedback and evaluation
We have recently run a series of policy reunions examining policies that Political Studies Association members deemed a success. Those policies – devolution, the minimum wage, privatisation, the Pensions Commission and the Climate Change Act – score well on these fundamentals – and past policy failures score poorly against them.
Why policies fail
Many are weak on clarity on goals, ideas have been generated behind closed doors and there has been a failure to learn from past evaluations; external critiques have been ignored and there is little scope to adapt in the light of experience.
One stand-out area of weakness is in policy design – in particular the failure to understand the likely reaction of those who the policy is supposed to affect, such as:
- the “deadbeat dads” who resisted the new child support regime
- understanding the chaotic incomes at the bottom end which bedevilled tax credits
- the sole traders who all incorporated to benefit from zero corporation tax
- appreciating the extent to which farmers traded land which made implementing the farm payment scheme a lingering nightmare.
A new area is clarity on roles and accountabilities. Failing to sort that out in a world of decentralisation is a recipe for future grief. Our separate report Nothing to do with me? looks at ways of dealing with that.
Your best and worst
Now we would like you to join the debate on the best and worst polices of the last 40 years (NOT including the current government where it is too early to tell) – and how they benchmark against our fundamentals.