Performance review in British local government : an investigation of the current state of the art
This thesis was precipitated by the observation that little is known about performance review activity in this country despite the introduction of a performance review system being proffered as one solution to the statutory value for money requirement. However, the research was not undertaken merely to fill an information vacuum. Delineating what lessons can be learned from current operations should assist local authorities embarking on the introduction of review systems in the future, particularly the `new' authorities emerging from Local Government Review and most notably in Scotland, where the statutory responsibility for ensuring value for money arrangements are in place, falls to the unitary authorities becoming operational on the 1st April 1996. Additionally, performance review may provide the framework in which policy achievements can be demonstrated, thus strengthening local government by reinforcing its policy role. This latter characteristicis likely to become critical if the trend towards enabling and decentralisation continues within the local government sector. An investigation of performance review was thus undertaken with postal questionnaires issued to chief executives and council leaders and a series of case studies, being used to accumulate research evidence. The findings are far-reaching and encompass the scale of review activity, the types of review system being utilised, attitudes to performance review, and establishing, operating and sustaining review systems. Insight was also gained about performance issues in authorities which had not implemented review processes. The operation of performance review is associated with significant benefits in many local authorities and there are useful lessons to be learned from these experiences as well as from those councils in which performance review has been less successful. These lessons are delineated within this thesis along with a set of good practice recommendations.