While central government has always used legislative means to bring about
change in local authorities, the scope and scale of this imperative has changed
significantly in the recent past. Thus, rather than just setting the framework
within which local authorities operate, legislation has become increasingly
prescriptive. Examples of the most recent legislation introduced include: The
Local Government Acts, 1988, 1992, 1999, 2000, The Local Government
(contracts) Act 1997, The National Health Services and Community Care Act
1990, The Local Government and Housing Act 1989, The Education Reform
Act 1988, The Local Government Finance Act 1988, The Rates Act 1984, The
Housing Act 1980 and The Local Government Planning and Land Act 1980.
There is a widespread assumption in local authorities that in order to meet the
growing demands of legislative changes, they have to become ever more
strategic. The shift to strategy formulation as opposed to monolithic planning
has been problematic because the reality of implementation is often
underestimated. Strategy is a direction or a pattern of decisions, which aims for
a fit between the organisation's internal capabilities and its external
environment. The concept draws a line between formulation and action. The
problem with this approach is that it fails to link implementation simultaneously
into the process of formulation. This means that the key consideration of
discursive practices is largely ignored.
This research has examined and developed a historical analysis of change in
local government with particular emphasis on government legislation and has
examined how local authorities have responded to legislative-driven change
through strategy formulation and implementation. The primary data for this has
been based on in-depth interviews and a large sample survey of local
authorities in England. For this purpose, five local authorities have been studied
in order to identify the extent to which they have been able to implement
existing and emerging legislation by relating key processes adopted in their
strategy formulation and implementation to their achievements. The in-depth
case studies have been followed by a detailed quantitative study encompassing
data collected from 265 respondents from local authorities in England together
with existing and emerging government statistics.
This research has culminated in a connecting model, which shows the
interrelationship that exists between legislative environmental change, strategy
formulation and implementation and discursive practices. This connecting
model provides a framework that help explain not only the process of change at
the strategic level, but also how legislation will be interpreted, implemented and
the degree to which it is likely to succeed or fail.
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