Finance and Accounting Group
Supervisor: PROF. STAN BRIGNALL
Topic: Improving Performance in Local Government
The need for more explicit and measurable standards of performance and a greater emphasis on output, controls and results (Hood, 1995) has resulted in recent efforts to improve performance measurement (PM) as a means to increase accountability and improve decision making (Ittner and Larcher, 1998 cited in Cavalluzzo and Ittner, 2003). Government initiatives to improve performance within the public sector have placed them at the forefront of efforts to implement new performance measurement systems (Atkinson, Waterhouse and Wells (1997) cited in Cavalluzzo and Ittner, 2003). In the United Kingdom, this effort was summed up in the New Labour government's proposal to modernise Britain. Public servants were tasked with playing their part in helping to modernise Britain (Harrop, 1999). This resulted in increasing pressure across the public sector to show real improvements. In local government, this need to find better means of determining and measuring performance in relation to objectives led to the introduction of Best Value (BV) and Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA). The aim of these initiatives was:
"to see vibrant, innovative and responsive local government delivering high quality public services for their communities” (extract from Chancellor's Budget statement March 2004).
Since the introduction of CPA there has been significant improvement in performance year on year (Wilson, 2005). The efforts by the Labour government to modernise the public sector have also created a very dynamic PM environment. It has also provided a great opportunity for researchers to monitor and track public sector organisations through the various stages within this process of improvement and to collect the empirical data to assist in finding the ultimate solution to the problem of under-achievement. The govemment has a planned programme for continuous improvement in local government and, to this end, is currently preparing new guidelines which will form the basis of a new performance framework for local governments in England. This new framework will be published in the near future and will make further changes to the way Local - Government manages performance.
It is hoped that this thesis will be a timely study of these changes. The thesis will attempt to identify the causes for under achievement and will propose a model to help failing authorities to move forward in a structured way.
The author envisages that local government will not be the only beneficiary of this research but that it can be applied also to other public sector organizations.