• The impact of elected member development on Local Authority performance: How can effective elected member development be provided to enable performance improvement at Liverpool City Council?

      Robertson Collins, Laura (University of Chester, 2006-06)
      This dissertation aims to discover whether elected member development can lead to performance improvement in councils, and if so, how it can best be provided to do so at Liverpool City Council. Public funds are provided for elected member development on the assumption that this will assist performance by improving governance and leadership, but there is little conclusive evidence to show that this is the case. This dissertation shows there is a relationship between providing development for members and improved performance in councils, but cannot prove that the development causes the improved performance. However, the dissertation does identify particular elements within the provision of elected member development that are particularly linked to higher performance in local authorities. Liverpool City Council has had a member development programme since 2000, but its overall performance is apparently deteriorating, with particular issues around governance and leadership having been the subject of recent criticism. Liverpool received only two stars in its most recent Comprehensive Performance Assessment, and its 'direction of travel' was assessed at only level two on a scale of four - 'improving adequately'. If elected member development is linked to improved performance, it is important then to discover how development can best be provided to councillors at Liverpool to ensure this. Chapter 1 of the dissertation describes the changes in the councillor role and the consequent need for training and development to support elected members, who are part-time volunteers in their role as governors of local authorities. In Chapter 2 the literature review examines the improvement agenda for local government, and in particular the need for improvement at Liverpool City Council caused by the apparent decline in performance since 2004. Additional pressures on Liverpool City Council, for example the bid to become a 'City-Region', are also examined. The literature review contains discussion on the performance management of organisations via managing the performance of the individuals in them, and on how elected members do not easily fit the traditional human resource development models used in employment situations. Finally, the chapter examines the development issues specific to elected members, including the adversarial environment caused by the democratic system and the role of the political parties in recruiting and selecting the members, which leads to complexity in appraisal and identifying development needs. From this literature search three main issues emerge which require further investigation: first, whether elected member development can improve local authority performance; second, if so, how development can best be provided; and third, what special consideration is needed within the cross-party development provision for the political groups on the authorities? Chapters 3 and 4 look at the primary research undertaken for this dissertation. Chapter 3 describes the methodology of the research, including how both inductive and deductive strategies are used, as well as different data collection methods, to answer the three parts of the research question. The chapter also looks at the limitations of the research, which is conducted with members of one political party only due to the researcher's professional role, and at the small sample size. Chapter 4 gives an overview of all the authorities in the survey, showing that these are varied in political control and type. The chapter presents the results of the survey of each identified element of local authority provision of cross-party elected member development, and the provision of each element of development within the political groups there. It also presents some of the data from the semi-structured interviews with members from Liverpool City Council where this is directly related to the survey. 11 In the analysis in Chapter 5 the results of the survey on corporate provision are cross-referenced with the performance scores of the local authorities to investigate whether there is a relationship between the provision of development and the performance of the authority. Here we see that the higher performing councils do have higher levels of elected member development provision, although it is not clear if the development is the cause of better performance or the result of it. This shows that some of the identified elements of provision are particularly linked to performance scores. The second part of the analysis examines the situation at Liverpool City Council by examining the results of the case study and member interviews, in the light of the information from this cross-referencing. This indicates what changes can be recommended for Liverpool's provision of corporate, cross-party development for all its members. The dissertation suggests that such corporate development cannot of itself be sufficient, however, due to the nature of the political groups and the relationship of the political parties to the local authority. Thus the final part of the analysis examines issues specific to the political groups at the surveyed authorities and in Liverpool, in order to make recommendations for development and training within Liverpool's Opposition Group. In particular the need for training of potential candidates prior to selection and election is identified from the interview data, and the complexity of providing such training outside of the local authority is discussed. Chapter 6 summarises the recommendations for the provision of corporate (cross-party) member development which emerge from the analysis in Chapter 5. It also suggests recommendations for action within individual political groups' development, including the possibility of a 'Liverpool Academy' for potential elected members. Chapter 6 also contains recommendations for further research in this field. The dissertation shows that particular ways of providing elected member development can impact on performance, and that improvement in this provision at Liverpool City Council can be achieved requiring relatively little additional resources, but by more effective use of existing resources within the City Council and local government.