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Do English Local Authorities Still have the Means of their Performance? A French View on a Local Public Action in Crisis

European Public Leadership in Crisis?

ISBN: 978-1-78350-901-0, eISBN: 978-1-78350-902-7

Publication date: 18 October 2014



Great Britain is a laboratory for new techniques of public management; it is therefore an interesting place to look at for people willing to get involved in large public organisations. The French ‘institute for local studies’, trains future professionals, selected after graduation or after a working experience, in order to take high positions in local authorities nationwide. Three pairs of trainees belonging to the 2012–2013 group spent two weeks in three local authorities in England, with the purpose of analysing the performance management in these organisations.


British and French scholars dedicated to public organisations provided the six trainees with a global view of local government and reforms in the United Kingdom. After that, each pair exchanged information with the local authority they would visit; during the two weeks they spent there, an officer followed their works. They interviewed numerous professionals, elected members and unionists, attended meetings and events. Back in France, they presented their findings in several documents. The original subject was measuring and managing performance; in fact, the three pairs went farther and looked over many aspects of the organisations’ functioning.


Local authorities are facing important budget reductions and appear fragile; they put forward the idea of resilience to express the necessity of using all their resources to deal with a difficult situation. Elected members have a role of political initiative, but they also focus a lot on control, which is much more developed in Britain than in France; managers experience a very difficult period, with a lot of threats on their jobs, teams and projects. In this context, professional networks are very important; peer review is an interesting example of the role of professional exchanges in the search for new solutions. At last, unions don’t seek conflicts but try to accompany changes, lessening their negative consequences on people.


This work is not an academic one but an approach of the reality of organisations analysed by professionals or future professionals of the public sector, in a kind of ‘peer review’ between different countries. This international dimension is interesting, seeing that few in-depth comparisons between local authorities are made, especially between France and Britain.




We would like to warmly thank the teaching team of the INET for having given us this opportunity (more particularly Nicolas Beauchef, Gisèle Geyer, Martine Goeury and Isabelle Lombardo) as well as Jérôme Dupuis and Marcel Guenoun for their support. We also thank the agents of the host authorities for their hospitality, their time and their trust and the reviewers of our report for their critical vigilance.


Auber, E., Chabaud, E., Chabernaud, A., Le Bras-Thomas, C., Longueville, E. and Suzat, E. (2014), "Do English Local Authorities Still have the Means of their Performance? A French View on a Local Public Action in Crisis", European Public Leadership in Crisis? (Critical Perspectives on International Public Sector Management, Vol. 3), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 85-125.



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