Kittens are Evil II: Little Heresies in Public Policy

Charlotte Pell (Editor), Rob Wilson (Editor), Toby Lowe (Editor), Jan Myers (Editor)

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


The ‘Little Heresies’ seminars provide an important public platform to debate the future of public services. This is the second published collection of talks given at those seminars. Both books takes their title from the first seminar, ‘Kittens are Evil’: it is still widely believed that private sector management methods and policies work well in the public sector. To suggest that they create perverse incentives and lasting damage to the social fabric is still a heresy.

Public services’ management and policy practices, underpinned by neoliberal thinking, were proposed by Margaret Thatcher in the 1970s - the belief was that using private sector management methods would not only improve the quality of services but increase effiency as well.

Successive governments have continued to subscribe to this belief - they believe that New Public Management (NPM), as it is now called, is the right approach to public services, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.

In this second volume (a companion to Kittens Are Evil) nine heretics, all leading thinkers and practitioners in their professional fields, explain the disastrous effects of wrong thinking and ineffective practice in areas like:
professionalisation in public services
measurement in public services
so-called evidence-based policy-making
money creation
philanthropy and the third/charitable sector.

Each heretic offers an alternative way of thinking about and developing policies. Government would do well to listen to these experts in designing practices for the future.
​The heretics in this second volume echo many themes from the first, including the critique of performance management that Cathy Hobbs describes as a long-term ‘distraction’ for those working in public services who lost the focus on the bigger picture. She prescribes slowing down and focussing on learning for improvement.
Richard Davis continues on this thread using examples from his career in consultancy of how managers consistently measure the wrong things. Challenges to the current system structures come from Catherine Needham and Steve Lock who call out professionals and organisations as barriers for change.
The thought-provoking chapter from Vince Richardson and Alan Peyton suggests that the government needs to take direct control of the money in the economy.
Another heretic in this vein is Jake Hayman who explains how charitable giving is broken as a result of the connection between mission and service delivery being lost in the race to evidence impact.
Also, on this theme, the chapter from Peter Wright uses the recent history of government public health policies around alcohol to claim that evidence isn’t enough to make policy, due to the dark interests in stopping us doing the right thing.
Finally, Mark Smith's dual heresy is the apparent paradox that standardisation of services is more costly than personalisation and that bespoke provision (not ‘one-stop shops’) is the way ahead if we are to reduce failure demand.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAxminster, Devon, UK
PublisherTriarchy Press
Number of pages100
ISBN (Print)9781911193777
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


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