Networks of constitutional watchdogs in the post-devolution UK

  • Anna Rolewska

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis examines the nature and extent of networks of constitutional watchdogs in the post-devolution UK, as well as the factors influencing those networks. To date, there has been little attention to the networks formed by those bodies in the different UK’s jurisdictions and across those jurisdictions. Yet, theory suggests that such networks could help to address the challenges of the growing pluralisation, diversification and complexity of public accountability arrangements. The thesis conducts a comparative study of the networking practices of six watchdogs located in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to address two main research questions: ‘Do constitutional watchdogs across the UK come together to form accountability networks, and if so, what are the functions and characteristics of interactions that take place within these networks?’ and ‘What are the most influential factors shaping and maintaining watchdog networks?’ The thesis is divided into two parts. The first part defines the watchdogs and discusses the interest of the watchdog research to date. It conceptualises accountability networks and identifies three explanatory factors expected to highlight the influences of regulative and resource-related pressures on those networks. Finally, it confirms the research design and methodology. The second part of the thesis reports on the empirical findings. It asserts that all the bodies studied engaged in multiplex watchdog accountability networks. However, the characteristics of those networks varied between the UK’s jurisdictions and depending on the network spatial scales. The second part of the thesis also concludes that watchdog networks were influenced only to a limited extent by regulative and resource-related pressures. Rather, they were strongly contingent on the discretion of the post-holders, whose preferences were prominently shaped by a sense of cultural affinity and alignment of ‘human’ factors. Watchdog interactions were also more likely to emerge in smaller jurisdictions. The findings of the thesis represent a contribution to the UK watchdog research, public accountability theorising and practical public policy approaches to watchdog sector design and management.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorHuw Lewis (Supervisor) & Elin Royles (Supervisor)

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