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According to Le Grand’s framework, the public service providers range from ‘knights’ and ‘knaves’ who provide the services to ‘pawns’ and ‘queens’. The ‘knights and knaves’ are said to own a certain degree of public service motivation. This motivation allows them to give back to the society at large by providing public services while the ‘pawns and queens’ receive and enjoy those particular services.

A solid argument has been presented by most scholars to the effect that service providers cannot be categorized as pure ‘knights’ who have good intentions to tend to the society and pure ‘knaves’, who perform deeds for their own self-interest. Further, the end users of the public service provided possess the capacity to either control the services rendered to them or are entirely clueless on the same.

There is therefore a very strong relationship between the public authorities and the organizations, both of whom play a vital role in public service provision. In a quasi-market, the public authorities control the finance but delegate the role to purchase the services on behalf of the users to organizations (Le Grand, 1997). The public services are in turn paid for either by vouchers or under a contract.

The service users are dependent on the two principles to receive satisfactory services. The purpose of this article is to critically analyze Le Grand’s framework for the purposes of understanding the link between the public authorities and organizations that are mandated with the task of providing public services paid for either by vouchers or through a contract.

Models Of Public Service Providers Under The Le Grand’s Framework

To have a clear understanding on the relationship between the public authorities and the organizations, it is good to discuss the models that govern them. In his framework, Le Grand attempts to distinguish between the trust and mistrust models. Both models concern themselves with the public authorities’ connection with the organizations that provide public services.

In the trust model, the service providers are expected to use the funds in a professional manner. A good example of the service providers under this category are the doctors or nursery teachers. According to Le Grand, the professional usage of the allocated budget ensures that the service provided to the users is not only efficient and accountable but also one that is of high quality and equitably distributed.

It is for this reason that the public service providers in this model are regarded as ‘knights’. The service that they provide is not placed under the directives and sanctions of the public authorities. The knights are therefore entrusted to deliver the best services to the service user for the sake of creating a better society.

The mistrust model on the other hand requires the intervention of the public authorities to ensure compliance by the public service providers. The service providers under this category are not trusted by the public authorities to wholly and fully deliver public services to the service users without any directives and intervention. They are therefore regarded as ‘knaves’ and the authorities result to such actions such as financial incentives or promotions as a means to control the service providers.

However, these models proposed by Le Grand have posed certain challenges. By describing a ‘knave’ as a key principle whose main interest is to further his self-interest, it fails to fully describe the economic behaviour of an individual. The self-interest nature entails a wider range of basics that contribute to its existence such as material wealth and power. Le Grand further equates a ‘knight’ to altruism.

Though to some extent the existence of altruism behaviour has been proven, it is a difficult act to identify while providing public service. During the provision of public services, altruism can be visible in various forms such as empathy, responsibility and the will to conform. It is for this reason that most service providers with altruistic behaviours possess the will to assist others and in the meanwhile enjoy some personal benefits from the act itself.

It can therefore be assumed that the cost of altruistic act is enormous so as to give a feeling of personal satisfaction. This can therefore mean that if the cost is low, then the altruistic act ceases to exist and the individual may forsake to perform that act.

Application of Le Grand’s Framework In Understanding The Relationship Between The Public Authorities And Public Service Providers

Le Grand’s framework plays a very big role in categorically bringing out the relationship between the public authorities and the service providers. Through the introduction of metaphors of ‘knights’ and ‘knaves’, he brings to fore the motivations and behaviours of the individuals responsible for providing public service. The relationship is as a result of the development of quasi-markets as described in the framework.

It should be understood that the quasi-markets enhance competition between the public service providers. This is due to the fact that they have substituted the monopolistic nature of state service provisions to include other key players. The providers operating under the quasi-markets are not intent on capitalizing their profits or to be owned privately.

Further, the purchasing power of the service receiver is not articulated in monetary terms but rather through a set out budget or a voucher only intended for a particular service. The framework sets out conditions to be met in order for public service providers to efficiently and responsibly improve their services in quasi-markets. First, the quasi-market should be competitive by engaging multiple service providers.

It should also give a reliable and dependable access to information from the public authorities. They are also required to use minimal costs on one hand while also receive motivation in terms of financial concerns on the other. Lastly, use of incentives by public authorities to public service users was vehemently discouraged as it was seen as promoting discrimination in provision of services.

The application of this quasi-market model as outlined in the framework has brought out its strength. A good example is the usage of the model in state education. Glennerster, poses an argument that lack of competition in most schools in Britain since 1945 has led to a declined performance (Diamond, 2006).

He argues that some form of external competition is necessary to mount pressure on the schools in order to stimulate performance. In a study carried out to determine the motivation and behaviours of hospitals, it was concluded that the knights, who were represented by the consultants, would dominate over the knaves, who were represented by the managers (Le Grand & Crilly, 2004).

It was evident that the knights had a higher consideration to provide services that were of higher quality as opposed to their counterparts whose main interest is how they would make a financial break-through.

However, the framework has been challenged in the recent years. The notion of gaining equal and quality services has been put to test. This is because of the radical shake up in certain sectors such as schools and hospitals. Primary schools for example have experienced major shake up since 1990s.

I has become more apparent that there exist different tastes and preferences between the middle-class, high-class and low average earners. The middle –class for instance opted to transfer their children to private schools hence having access to better services as opposed to the poor. In essence, the models for advancing the public service have weakened. The public authority seem to be confronted with inevitable numerous persistent public service restructuring dilemmas.

It has to face the fact that the innovative public service providers are bound to deliver a greater choice in the quality of the services provided. This has generally raised the overall expectations. It is also noteworthy to point out that there has been evident widespread confusion, especially notable in the National Health Services (NHS) due to existence of federal authorities alongside the quasi-markets’ imposition.

Some critics have posed that this challenge has subjected the NHS managers to face numerous threats requiring them to give public services under central directives while also being expected to engage in good practice for the best interest of NHS. It can therefore be argued that there are still conflicting incentives with those highlighted in Le Grand’s framework.

The framework has also been challenged on the use of incentives to motivate the service providers by the authorities. Le Grand argues that the knights in particular, do not rely on incentives to work harder to provide quality services.

However, in the recent years, studies have indicated that most, if not all, service providers, including the ‘knights’ themselves seem to produce a higher output in their service provision when there is an incentive (Kendall, 2001). With the recent harsh economic time, it would be hard to pick out one ‘knight’ willing to provide services without a lure of any kind of financial incentive.

The authorities on the other hand have sought to strengthen the relationship with organizations by giving them some kind of incentives either by voucher payment or contract. However, there is still evidence that the knights, like the doctors, always strive to produce quality services to the pawns and queens hence bringing out the strength of Le Grand framework.

It is evident that Le Grand focused only on health, education and housing to bring out the relationship between the public authorities and the service providers, an aspect that has received a lot of criticism.

In his research findings, Welshman (2007) questions the adequacy and worthiness of the metaphors adopted by Le Grand and their attempt to portray the attitudes governing the behaviours and motivation of public service providers. He poses an argument that Le Grand failed to put into perspective the period 1945-79, which encompassed a wider aspect of public policy.


Le Grand framework that applies the use of metaphors to explain the attitudes towards the motivations and behaviours of public providers has contributed to the relationship between the authorities and the service providers.

Its major strengths and weaknesses have been brought to the fore but despite all the arguments posed, it is evident that the framework plays a major key role to explain and authenticate the relationship between the authorities and public providers.

The organizations still depend on the authorities to give directives on the service to be rendered and at the same time produce quality service in the interest of end service user. More so, the framework has only been challenged on very minimal grounds due to recent changing times.

Reference List

Diamond, P., 2006. Conondrums of Reform: Efficiency, Public Virtue And The Delivery of World-Class Public Services. Policy Network: London.

Kendall, J., 2001. Of Knights, Knaves and Merchants: The Case of Residential Care for Older People in England in the Late 1990s. Social Policy and Administration, 35(4), p.360-375.

Le Grand, J., 1997. Knights, Knaves or Pawns? Human Behaviour and Social Policy. Journal of social Policy, 26(2), p.149-169.

Le Grand, J. & Crilly, T., 2004.The Motivation and behaviour of Hospital Trusts. Social Science & Medicine, 58(1), p.1809-1823.

Welshman, J., 2007. Knights, Knaves, Pawns and Queens: attitudes to behaviour in postwar Britain. J Epidemial Community Health, 61(1), p.95-97.

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