Local government scrutiny and governance : limits and possibilities
The central focus of this thesis is the role of scrutiny within the modernised system of local government and governance. The study was carried out from an insider-research perspective within the scrutiny team of a unitary authority. The scrutiny process provided a 'window' through which to analyse the development, and application, of New Labour's local government modernisation agenda. The thesis contains a critical examination of literature about the modernisation of local government and, in particular, the roles of the scrutiny function. This discussion is located within broader literatures about governance and the changing role of local government. It is argued that, while there is scope for manoeuvre at both national and local levels, global trends have provided powerful drivers for policy development and the subsequent fragmentation of the nation state. Empirical data were obtained through case studies of four scrutiny inquiries, selected to permit an exploration of limitations and possibilities of local government scrutiny within this context of globalisation and the shift from government to governance. An analysis of the case studies highlighted the importance of four factors in explaining variations in governance outcomes; risk to legitimacy, public/pressure group engagement, regulation/hierarchy and certainty/agreement. In light of these findings it is concluded scrutiny is an imperfect tool within an imperfect (governance) system. However, the local government modernisation agenda had created a number of new opportunities for local government, and scrutiny, to function more effectively in the current governance context.