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Publication - Ms Tessa Coombes

    Policy-making ‘front’ and ‘back’ stage

    Assessing the implications for effectiveness and democracy


    Ayres, S, Sandford, M & Coombes, T, 2017, ‘Policy-making ‘front’ and ‘back’ stage: Assessing the implications for effectiveness and democracy’. British Journal of Politics and International Relations, vol 19., pp. 861-876


    The aim of this article is to examine the complex interrelationship between ‘front’ and ‘back’ stage policy-making. ‘Front stage’ describes the activities of visible and accountable office holders in elected bodies, constrained by established bureaucratic rules. ‘Back stage’ describes the world of unseen decision-making where public officials are less constrained by formal rules and public scrutiny. Drawing on a recent case study of English devolution in the United Kingdom, this article examines how front and back stage policy-making shape one another and the impact this can have on policy effectiveness and democratic accountability. Findings reveal that policy-makers need to think more explicitly about the interplay between front and back stage activities. In the context of English devolution, the transition from back to front stage has been flawed. Central government’s purposeful strategy of informal negotiations with very few formal objectives has resulted in low stakeholder buy-in, which has mitigated against the potential effectiveness of back stage decision-making.

    Full details in the University publications repository