Approaches to council housing management : a study of 'best value' implementation in two London boroughs
This thesis comprises research into the implementation of Best Value in council housing. Best value is a nationally determined framework specifying the process which local authorities must use to review and improve the full range of their activities with regard to performance, quality, accountability and cost. The aim of the research is to evaluate the extent to which local variables impact upon policy outcomes: the implementation of policy. The central research question is: 'In what ways were local relationships redefined following the introduction of Best Value?'. The basis for the study is a view that local determination of policy by an influential group is enhanced through Best Value implementation, in contradiction with its intention. The theoretical footing of this work is derived from a notion that managers 'bureau shape' when conditions allow, rather than 'empire build' as competing theories maintain (Dunleavy 1991). It is hypothesised that Best Value was in part devised to check 'empire building' tendencies and this is a flawed assumption that could lead to unintended policy outcomes. This notion is tested through field research examining the views of councillors, managers, front line workers and residents from two London boroughs, Westminster and Newham. The conclusions drawn relay a set of determinants, each related: the nature of the policy in question; local actors' 'alignment' to that policy and the influence they have; and the extent and nature of change required to meet perceived policy directives. The essence of local policy determination relates to political context and the mediation of relationships between actors. The final point made is that future research could fruitfully examine process as the measure of policy successes and failures, rather than policy outputs.