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New challenges for leadership and accountability in local public services in England

Jessica Crowe (Centre for Public Scrutiny, London, UK)

International Journal of Leadership in Public Services

ISSN: 1747-9886

Article publication date: 17 August 2011




Increasing diversity in public service provision brings potential benefits around choice and innovation, but could also blur lines of accountability and create weak governance. The purpose of this paper is to provide a new approach to accountability, to help leaders develop effective network governance.


This paper provides a summative review of previous thinking about good governance and presents the new concept of a “web of accountability”. It examines four potential typologies of public service delivery and considers potential governance models and the accountability issues for leaders that arise in each one. The theory and challenge of securing democratic anchorage is used as a framework against which to test each model.


The paper finds that all the potential typologies considered raise different questions for local leaders about accountability and good governance. None perfectly secures democratic anchorage when considered against the four criteria which help to anchor network governance in a democratic society, but they all have different strengths in terms of accountability, transparency, involvement and scrutiny.

Practical implications

The paper offers a new practical tool, the Accountability Works for You framework, as one way of assessing governance arrangements and developing a locally‐owned approach to accountability.


The paper uses original research and the unique concept of the “web of accountability” developed by the author's organisation, the Centre for Public Scrutiny. Accountability Works for You is a new framework available for public sector leaders. It emphasises culture and behaviours (“software”) over process and structure (“hardware”) in thinking about governance.



Crowe, J. (2011), "New challenges for leadership and accountability in local public services in England", International Journal of Leadership in Public Services, Vol. 7 No. 3, pp. 206-217.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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