Environmental change, strategy formulation and restructuring : a connecting model for change in local government
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.