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The Programme’s second publication ‘Public Management by Numbers’, a special issue of the journal Public Money and Management (Vol. 27 No. 2) was released in April 2007.

There has been an inexorable rise of public management by numbers over the past quarter of a century. Quantitative performance measurement is now a dominant feature of the landscape of public service management in the
UK as well as many other countries. Yet many mistrust what they regard as the remorseless growth of an unevaluated industry, and question:

This special issue contains four articles taken from the Programme’s research, which look at the metrics issue from different, but complementary, angles; beginning with
Christopher Hood’s analysis of the performance by numbers business, focussing on the way numbers are used as targets, rankings and intelligence systems. Rowena Jacobs and
Maria Goddard examine the use of composite indicators to investigate whether they are robust enough to be trusted. Iain McLean, Dirk Haubrich and Roxana Gutiérrez-Romero test the design of the Comprehensive Performance Assessment, used to measure local authority performance, to discover whether it is a reliable and valid performance measure. Finally, Andrew Goddard, Martin Broad and Larissa Von Alberti analyse the very different performance management cultures of English local authorities and universities.

Together the articles help us to understand the scope and limits of public service management by numbers. However, there is more than a hint of paradox: that, in theory and practice, many scholars and practitioners are coming to regard performance measurement as an obstacle as much as a facilitator or performance delivery.