There is a useful governmental myth that ‘management’ and ‘policy’ can be divided – politicians can set policy and civil servants manage delivery. The boundary sounds plausible – policy should rightly be within political control in a democratic state. It is a product of choices about which all can legitimately have opinions, however guided by experts. The truth is of course more messy because as with all human activity, there are transactional forces at work. Policy of course has to be applied in circumstances that were not envisaged, and it is never static and can be informed by activities that may have been devised as ‘managerial’. Policy also operates at different levels simultaneously. So it might be legitimately believed that government policy is to reduce re-offending and that any activity that seeks to achieve that aim falls within the realm of managerial implementation. On the other
hand, ‘policy’ often takes a more detailed engagement with how objectives are achieved. It may be policy to reduce re-offending but not to do so in a way that is perceived to be ‘letting offenders off’.
There also may be strong governmental ideologies about how government policy should be implemented – such as an approach that uses payment by results and competition as mechanisms to achieve the high level objective of reduced re-offending.