Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is often seen as a vehicle for organizational reform. However, the established literature on achieving ICT based reform tends to focus upon the private sector and is unsuitable for analysing the public sector. In the public sector ICT reform is usually delivered through complex partnership arrangements with private sector organizations. This seen the emergence of the Strategic Service Partnership (SSP) in which an interorganizational relationship is established between a public sector organization and a private sector organization. This partnership allows for the private sector organization to become the exclusive provider of ICT systems for the public sector organization. These ICT systems allow for intra-organizational communication and coordination to be achieved. As such reform which seeks to enable intra-organizational collaboration is shown to be dependent upon the establishment of inter-organizational collaboration. These two factors are understood in terms of a dialectic relationship.
Local Government In The Uk
Local authorities in the UK are most effectively understood as institutions (Peters 2005) which are made up of factionalised organizations (Pettigrew, 1972). A local authority consists of an elected council comprised of politicians divided into different political groups (or parties) and an administrative bureaucracy comprised of professional staff. The professional staff are divided between different departments which perform the specialised tasks necessary for the coordination of the authority, the fulfilment of statutory tasks and the implementation of the polices of the controlling political group. This bureaucracy is coordinated and managed by a Strategic Management Team (SMT) which forms an interface between the elected members and the organizational bureaucracy.
As local authorities are composed of different organizations and factions, operating within a single institution, their operation depends upon a series of inter and intra-organizational relationships. These relationships may be characterised as follows. An interorganizational relationship must be established between the elected members and the administrative bureaucracy via the SMT and between the different political groups. Intra-organizational relationships must be established between the different departments in the administrative bureaucracy. Should these relationships break down, a situation can develop in which a local authority becomes uncoordinated and policy execution becomes haphazard.
In the UK, local government exists within a unique legislative structure, as its position is not guaranteed constitutionally. Instead local government exists within a plethora of laws and agendas imposed by central Government and these determine the powers and responsibilities of local authorities. The UK Government has advanced a number of policy agendas which have affected local government and the most important of these are the New Public Management (NPM) which sought to increase efficiency and performance in the public sector. The agenda of the NPM was enshrined in law by the 1999 Local Government Act (S. 3, p. 1) under a concept known as Best Value (Martin, 2000) which required continuous improvement in the “… economy, efficient and effectiveness …” of public sector organisations. The 1999 Local Government Act also gave an inspectorate—the Audit Commission—the power to inspect local authorities and examine their compliance with the Act under threat of central Government sanction.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Strategic Service Partnership (SSP): SSPs are a variant of the Public-Private Partnership which are often based around ICT. They are considerably more complex than ‘conventional’ partnerships and see the integration of the private sector provider into the actual operations of the public sector organization. However, in financial terms they have a substantial similarity with the PFI scheme.
United Kingdom (UK): This consists of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own systems of Local Government. This paper specifically relates to Local Government in England and Wales.
Public Finance Initiative (PFI): A PFI scheme is where a private sector organization provides upfront capital for a public sector infrastructure project and incurs the development costs. The cost are then recouped through a long term contract in which the public sector leases the infrastructure. When the contract expires the ownership of the infrastructure reverts to the public sector.
Group: In the UK, at the local level, political parties are not formally recognised and the elected members form political groups in place of political parties. The groups are formed along party lines, however.
Labour Party: The Labour party, to differentiate it from the national New Labour Party is one of the major political parties in North Town. Although the party is part of the national Labour organization and is in theory answerable to it, it is, like all local political parties functionally independent.
Liberal Party: The Liberal party is actually known as the Liberal Democrats party but is referred to as the Liberal party to avoid confusion with the national Liberal Democrats Party to which it is answerable.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT): This often is used to refer to entire systems of hardware and software designed to relay information.
Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM): A Government department responsible for local government. The ODPM was abolished in 2007 and was superseded by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
New Public Management (NPM): A series of beliefs and reforms that attempted to transform the public sector into an image of the private sector. The NPM was based largely on a belief that the private sector was intrinsically more efficient and superior in delivery to the public sector. This argument was and still is highly contested within the academic literature.
Public-Private Partnership (PPP): A form of long term contracting between the public sector and the private sector that is thought to be underpinned by a collaborative relationship and high levels of interorganizational trust.