This article seeks to explain the attitudes of bureaucrats to the redesign of their bureaus by their elected principals. The starting point is a puzzle that a constitutional change in English local government, which was designed to enhance the influence and role of leading local politicians, resulted with bureaucrats as its most enthusiastic champions. The article explores explanations of this response, drawing on the deliberate discretion or policy conflict model of Huber and Shipan and on the bureau-shaping model of Dunleavy. By finding support for the bureau-shaping model, as well as the objectives of implementation efficiency and career advancement, we argue that bureaucrats may regard the increase in political power as a way of realising other objectives they value. © Journal compilation © 2008 Political Studies Association and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.