Consistentie van beleid ontrafeld: koers houden voor de binnenstad.
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This thesis studies the consistency of the municipal policies aimed at the inner city, of a major Dutch city, Breda, for the period 1990-2015. It aims to assess the degree of consistency of this policy, and subsequently it aims to explain this degree of consistency, by pitting two theoretical perspectives against each other. In policy debates, on a regular basis the complaint can be heard that policies lack consistency: stakeholders state that policies have been changing far too often recently, and that they lack continuity and predictability. The need for more consistent policies is felt across a wide range of sectors. Put simply, the dynamic described here is due to what Patashnik (2008) calls the commitment problem: “the inability of a sovereign government to bind itself or its successors.” This is a problem, because for policies to be effective, they typically need time (Sabatier & Mazmanian 1979) – time during which they get the chance to settle. Moreover, the credibility and reliability of a government partly depends on the extent to which stakeholders can count on the stability of its policies. Against the background of the shift from government to governance (Osborne 2006), this becomes increasingly important. However, apart from the need for policies to be stable, policy makers are confronted with forces that pull them into other directions. Bressers et al. (2013, p. 28) note that there is a clear tension between policy consistency on the one hand, and adaptivity of policies on the other. Policy makers need to deal with pleas for agility (Mierop 2011), responsitivity and flexibility on the part of government. This is understandable, since it is not desirable either that policies never, or barely, change. Sometimes policies simply need to adapt to changing circumstances. Hence, it could be stated that policies need to reconcile two diverging values: they ought to be stable over time to a certain extent, but they should also be adaptable. We propose to see policy consistency as the situation in which these two demands are met. Policy consistency is not a common concept in the policy literature. It has not been operationalized before. Therefore, this study aims to grasp what consistency really is about. [Thesis in Dutch, with a summary in English]