UK public sector reform and the “performance agenda” in UK local government

Lynette Harris (Department of Human Resource Management, Nottingham Trent University Business School, Nottingham, UK)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Publication date: 1 December 2005



To examine how an external performance review process introduced as part of the public sector modernisation agenda in England and Wales has impacted on HR service provision and processes in local government and the extent to which it has acted as a catalyst for the development of more integrative and innovative HR practices to support organisational performance.


A case study analysis of the Best Value Review (BVR) process of HR services at two county and two unitary authorities generated data from multiple sources including interviews, focus groups, consultative meetings as well as internal documentation. This approach was adopted to offer perspectives from different stakeholders in the employment relationship.


There was found to be a frequent lack of synergy between organisational goals, departmental plans and the performance objectives of individuals combined with an absence of shared understandings about human resourcing priorities or commitment to the processes needed to strategically integrate HR policies.

Research limitations/implications

Whilst providing insights into the Best Value (BV) approach to public sector modernisation, a wider generalisation of the findings cannot be drawn from four case studies.

Practical implications

Line management and the HR function need to share better understandings concerning the HR practices needed to support the modernisation agenda and their respective HR responsibilities.


This paper reveals that the BV performance regime was not encouraging, and even limiting, a corporate approach to the HR policies and practices required to develop longer term organisational capability.



Harris, L. (2005), "UK public sector reform and the “performance agenda” in UK local government", Personnel Review, Vol. 34 No. 6, pp. 681-696.

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Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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