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Home » Research Projects » Impact of Litigation and Public Law on the Quality and Delivery of Public Services

Finding fault

Does blame make public services better?

The media assert as something of a truism that ours is swiftly becoming an increasingly litigious society. There is a general perception that rights are asserted, wrongs challenged and redress sought through the courts with an unprecedented rapidity and abrasiveness. How is this culture of litigation affecting the public services in England and Wales, and is there any correlation between levels of litigation (or the lack of it) and key quality indicators? What are the differences between local authorities whose decisions are often challenged in the courts, and those who are rarely faced with litigation? Are there lessons which can be learned to avoid litigious confrontations in the future? What about the effect of significant judicial decisions on future decision-making at local level? Are they a factor at all? These are among the questions being addressed by Professor Maurice Sunkin (Department of Law/Human Rights Centre, University of Essex) and his team in their study of the Impact of litigation and public law on the quality of delivery of public services. Through a three-pronged investigation of the quantity of public law litigation against local authorities in England and Wales, the perception of the quality of service delivery and specific case-studies, Professor Sunkin and his team will seek to establish just what local authorities can do to deliver public services in ways which do not result in their decisions being challenged in the courts. The findings of this project promise to have a lasting effect not only on the provision of welfare services and the mechanism of public decision making in the UK, but also on welfare delivery internationally. What the research means for policymakers and the wider community

Research Methods The study will involve three interrelated components and a combination of quantitative and qualitative techniques. The first component is quantitative and will consist of the compilation and analysis of data on the level of public law litigation involving local authorities across England and Wales. The second component will consist of a comparative study of two sets of local authorities. This will comprise both interviews within the authorities concerned, and interviews conducted with three different user and user-related groups to ascertain public perceptions of quality. The third component of the research will consist of a number of case studies.

Project Outputs and Related Webpages

Project Poster 2009 Programme Discussion Paper DP0808: Litigation and the Quality of Local Government Service Delivery Programme Discussion Paper DP0801: Does Judicial Review Influence the Quality of Local Authority Services? December 2008:Judicial Review and the Quality of Local Government Services (pdf) , Summary Brochure. October 2007: ‘Mapping Judicial Review across Local Authorities in England and Wales: Deprivation, Lawyers and the Quality of Services’, Public Law, Fall 2007, pp. 545-567.December 2006: ‘Judicial Review in Action: An Empirical Perspective’, Judicial Review, Volume 11 Issue 4. Article in JPART Special Issue on Incentives Lucinda Platt, Maurice Sunkin, and Kerman Calvo ‘Judicial Review Litigation as an Incentive to Change in Local Authority Public Services in England and Wales’, July 2010.

Research Team

Maurice Sunkin

Maurice Sunkin

Maurice Sunkin is a Professor in the Department of Law and Dean of the School of Law at the University of Essex. Called to the Bar in 1975, he is an associate member of Landmark Chambers. His main teaching interests are in the fields of public law, human rights and environmental law.

Tel: 01206 87 2560 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              01206 87 2560      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Email: sunkm@essex.ac.uk

Todd Landman

Todd Landman

Todd Landmann was Co-Director of the Human Rights Centre, University of Essex, from August 2003 – June 2005. His research and teaching interests are democracy development and human rights, and in quantitative and qualitative political methodology.

Tel: 01206 872129
Email: todd@essex.ac.uk

Lucinda Platt

Lucinda Platt

Lucinda Platt is a trained social worker who then moved into research, studying and teaching at Oxford University before moving to the University of Essex. Her research interests are ethnic minority poverty, child poverty and the history of social policy.

Tel: 01206 873 062
Email: lplatt@essex.ac.uk

Kerman Calvo

Kerman Calvo

Kerman Calvo is a senior research officer at the University of Essex and a member of the Spanish team of the European Social Survey. His interests are electoral studies, collective protest and sexual politics in Western Europe.

Tel: +44 (0)1206 874802
Email: kcalvo@essex.ac.uk