Journal Article

Time, exhortation and planning in British government, c.1959 - c.1979


The early 1960s witnessed a number of long-term plans being issued by the British government – for roads, hospitals, new towns, city centres, social care and even the whole economy. A ‘Very Long Term Planning Group’ within Whitehall even looked twenty five years into the future, to inform central planning and the setting of priorities. By the 1970s, however, this effort seemed to have entirely broken down, and the UK Government was involved in a day-to-day struggle even to keep electricity supplies flowing. Incomes policies and industrial subsidies focused, not on the twenty first century, but on day-to-day negotiations in particular sectors of the economy, or even specific companies. This article will explore this retreat from forethought and pre-commitment. What factors explain this remarkable retreat from ambitious and hopeful plans of a ‘scientific’ and an optimistic future? Why did the time-frame of Britain’s governments, and her policy-making elites, shrink so dramatically and so rapidly? And finally, what implications for British politics and policy-making did the shortening time-horizon imply?

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O'Hara, Glen

Oxford Brookes departments

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences\Department of History, Philosophy and Religion


Year of publication: 2015
Date of RADAR deposit: 2016-08-11

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