The project arises from the question – in a climate of austerity, how can governments best try to cut costs without damaging front-line services? Can back-office – ‘administrative’ – operations be made more efficient? One way of doing that, it has been suggested, is by reorganizing administrative functions into Shared Service Centres. Such centres are being introduced around the world, with claims of substantial expected cuts in administration costs through economies of scale.
However, Ruth’s previous work on central government administration costs showed that it is much easier to claim that reforms will produce savings than to demonstrate that this was actually the case. And there is very little empirical evidence on the effects of shared service centres on administration costs.
For this study, therefore, Ruth and Thomas will be assembling data from all 350 or so English local authorities – enthusiastic adopters of shared service centres – to test these claims for the first time, and so provide practical insights for policymakers as well as theoretical understanding in the field of organization studies.