Exploring innovation in policy-making within central government: the case of the UK's Highways Agency

Michael J.R. Butler, Jacqui Wilkinson, Peter M. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The first and main contribution of this article is its access to the decision-making processes which drive innovation in policy-making within central government. The article will present a detailed case history of how the innovation came about and conclude by highlighting analytic possibilities for future research. The policy in focus is the UK’s Traffic Management Act 2004, which passed responsibility for managing incidents on major roads from the police to the Highways Agency (HA), and has been interpreted as a world first in traffic management. The article tracks the Traffic Management Act 2004 from problem identification to a preliminary evaluation. It is then suggested that future research could explain organizational change more theoretically. By taking a longitudinal and multi-level approach, the research falls into a processual account of organizational change. The second contribution of the article is to highlight two novel ways in which this approach is being applied to policy-making, through an institutional processualist research programme on public management reform and empirical investigations using complex systems to explain policy change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-155
Number of pages19
JournalPublic Policy and Administration
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010


  • innovation
  • policy process
  • central government
  • Highways Agency
  • decision making and traffic management


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