Brief book review – Regulatory Delivery: Introducing the Regulatory Delivery Model.

Graham Russell and Christopher Hodges, editors, (2019), Hart Publishing Oxford, 504 pages

Good times for regulatory literature! Graham Russel (Chief Executive of the Office for Product Safety and Standards in the UK Government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) and Prof Chris Hodges (University of Oxford) have just published their Regulatory Delivery: Introducing the Regulatory Delivery Model. Comparable to Governing through regulation and Achieving Regulatory Excellence (books that I have reviewed earlier) this new book is clearly written for an audience of policymakers and regulatory practitioners.

I am very glad to see this new trend of books that address the, to speak with Russell and Hodges, delivery side of regulation. As they rightfully point out in the introduction: “[Academics] and policy-makers have historically overlooked the importance of regulatory delivery mechanisms in securing desired outcomes” (p.15). The recent history of regulatory scholarship points at a broad range of publications on how to develop better rules. Likewise, much regulatory reform that we have witnessed since the 1980s has been “seeking to perfect the ‘rules’ rather than improve their delivery” (p.19).

Building on a decade of experience in improving regulatory delivery in the UK and a range of case studies from other countries, the collective of authors in Regulatory Delivery share their experience of how they have sought to make regulation more effective. Central to the book is the Regulatory Delivery Model. It is a heuristic that can help regulators to map their existing regulatory regimes and use it as a diagnostic tool to explore the workings of these regimes. The central ambition of the model is “to improve the impact of the regulatory activity (effectiveness) whilst minimising its costs to the state (efficiency)”. It keeps in mind that “the principal impacts of effectiveness must be on the originating policy objectives (protection), effective delivery will also promote benefits for the regulated (prosperity) both directly through reducing costs and indirectly by improving confidence and control” (p.19-20).

The Regulatory Delivery Model has two domains. The first, prerequisites, “describe the three elements [governance, accountability, culture] that define the potential of a regulatory agency to fulfil its mandate and to continue to do so in a changing environment”. The second domain, practices, “cover the operational activity of a regulatory agency and its ability to plan, deliver and describe whether it is achieving the outcomes for which it exists” (p.35). The three practices are outcome measurement, risk-based allocation of resources, and responsive inspection practices. The book brings together a wealth of knowledge on how interventions that have proven to work can be combined to develop modern regulatory regimes.

The book is a must-read for regulators at all levels of government. For regulatory practitioners working at the frontlines, the chapters on regulatory practices will likely be of most interest. For those working in managerial positions in regulatory agencies, the chapters on prerequisites will likely have the most insights. Yet, as the authors of the Regulatory Delivery Model explain (in exceptionally clear language) all these aspects impact each other. Contrary to some of the other books that I have discussed on this blog, Regulatory Delivery provides regulators with an easy heuristic to work with. And one that, based on my reading of the broader regulatory literature, has a lot of promise to help regulators strengthen their licence to operate—that is, “the extent to which the regulatory agency establishes confidence and then trust amongst beneficiaries and regulated entities that it will deliver outcomes with equity, consistency and predictability” (p.47-48).  

Disclaimer. In these brief book reviews, I discuss classic and contemporary books that make up the canon of regulatory scholarship. I focus on their central guiding idea or core notions and aim to keep the reviews to around 500 words. Unfortunately, this implies I must sacrifice a considerable amount of detail from the books reviewed.

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