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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1959.3/77081
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- Reconciling efficiency and democracy: the challenges at the local government level
- Brackertz, Nicola
- This thesis investigates community services policy implementation in local government in the State of Victoria, Australia. It focuses on the tensions between the requirement that councils implement the policies and objectives of the State and Federal governments, which frequently aim to increase efficiency, and the obligation to uphold the integrity of the democratic processes necessary to fulfil its local mandate and responsibilities to constituents. I argue that successive reforms to Victorian local government and the concomitant adaptations to its governance structures are manifest in varying approaches to public accountability and performance criteria for services provided. These changes reflect evolving policy ideas about the role of local government, citizens and the private sector in the governance balance. The shift from government to governance has been a central feature of public sector reform in Australia and internationally over the past 20 years. Public services are no longer delivered centrally by the state, but rather by a network of actors (the private, notfor- profit and community sectors). Accountability no longer relies on traditional hierarchical structures of authority, but on contracts and complex interrelationships between multiple parties. The ‘new governance’ is seen to be beneficial because it increases the system’s ability to deliver services efficiently and effectively, but has been criticised for a lack of transparency, accountability and weak democratic legitimacy. A proliferation in policy tools used to tackle a range of social and economic issues has accompanied the shift from government to governance. Public participation is singled out as a tool that can counter the legitimacy deficits of the new governance. The reasoning is that if there is no easily identifiable group of people that can be held accountable and if traditional liberal democratic processes have become weakened, then civic culture must take on functions of responsibility, accountability and authority through involvement beyond the electoral cycle. Local government is identified as the place where public participation will be most beneficial because it is ‘closest to the people’. The study uses three cases with councils in the greater Melbourne area and presents evidence that under the new governance there is a tension in justifications for legitimacy. I argue that the policy tools used to effect public sector reforms in Victorian local government embody tensions between the efficient provision of community services, the need to maintain democratic legitimacy and a desire to strengthen the role of civil society in governance. The thesis shows how local councils seek to resolve these contradictions, how the local context affects outcomes, and points to possible alternative models for strengthening local governance.
- Publication type
- Thesis (PhD)
- Research centre
- Swinburne University of Technology. Faculty of Life and Social Sciences. Institute for Social Research
- Publication year
- Australasian Digital Theses collection
- Copyright © 2009 Nicola Brackertz.