Sustainable development indicators and local government
As the level of goverrument closest to the people, local authorities have been credited with a key role in action towards sustainable development (United Nations, 1992). This thesis describes research which addresses mechanisms for evaluating sustainable development practice by local govemment. A review of approaches to measuring progress, in economic, social and environmental terms, identified sustainable development indicators as an evaluation framework whose applicability to local government warrented further research. A review of research literature highlighted the need for a dynamic and cyclical research approach which would acknowledge the contested and valueladen nature of both sustainable development and the research endeavour. The fieldwork is written up in three stages. The first stage explores the scope for transferring experience from public sector quality and performance indicators work. The second stage is a thin and linear description of the process of Fife Regional Council's role as a pilot authority in a Local Government Board Sustainability Indicators project. The third stage uses the wide range of written and experiential data gathered through the role of Project Consultant/Researcher to the Fife project to present a rich description of 'Sustainability Indicators for Fife'. The dialectic and hermeneutic framework adapted for this study enabled a detailed examination of the iterative movement between the sustainable development framing of the whole report and the process of crafting individual indicators. The study concludes that sustainable development indicators have considerable value as a performance management tool for use in local government, particularly in the context of the Local Agenda 21 and Community Planning initiatives. However, it is the quality and approach to local governance that will have an overiding impact on the achievement of effective action towards sustainable development. Recommendations are made for good practice and for further research.