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Article
Publication date: 17 August 2015

Thomas Ahrens and Laurence Ferry

The purpose of this paper is to shed light on new accountability relationships between Newcastle City Council (NCC) and its citizens and stakeholders in the wake of the…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to shed light on new accountability relationships between Newcastle City Council (NCC) and its citizens and stakeholders in the wake of the British government’s austerity politics and its budget cuts for local authorities. It seeks to show some of the ways in which various kinds of budgeting, for example, for alternative sources of funding, the use of volunteers for service provision, resource sharing, and asset transfers, as well as a diverse set of accounts of the social implications of resource diversions and service cuts, have been implicated in those changes.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors conducted a qualitative field study of some of the uses of budgets in the shaping of accountability relationships through interviews with council officers, conversations with activists and citizens, analysis of council and other documents, and observation of public meetings and demonstrations. The approach focused on the relationship between the city’s political grassroots and the NCC leadership and administration.

Findings

The authors find that NCC’s senior politicians and officers co-opted the city’s political grassroots and managed to reconstitute local political accountability to citizenry and stakeholders as a choice between the cessation of different types of local government services, by combining appeals to the legal framework of English local authorities, the unfairness of national politics, and the fairness of local government service provision. Local government blamed the funding cuts and the resulting resource shortages on the central government. It sought to push responsibility for cuts to the local citizenry whilst reserving for itself the role of mediator and adjudicator who makes the final decisions about the portfolio of causes that will be funded.

Originality/value

This is the first study to offer detailed insight into the effects of the British government’s austerity budget cuts of local authority grants on the politics of accountability in a local authority.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 28 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 27 June 2019

Vincent Onyango, Paola Gazzola and Geoffrey Wood

The purpose of this paper is to establish the evidence for, the why and how recent austerity policy atmosphere associated with the UK government affected environmental…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to establish the evidence for, the why and how recent austerity policy atmosphere associated with the UK government affected environmental protection decisions within planning in Scotland.

Design/methodology/approach

A qualitative analysis based on perspectives gathered via questionnaire survey targeted at stakeholders involved in planning in Scotland was undertaken. The questionnaire responses were analysed thematically, supplemented by using statistical tests of significance and variance to show how responses differed across participants.

Findings

The evidence showed that austerity policy atmosphere resulted in a pervasive neoliberal imperative of resuscitating the economy; whilst producing subtle and adverse effects on environmental decisions. This was best understood within a neo-Gramscian perspective of hegemony, borrowed from the field of political economy of states.

Research limitations/implications

The gathered views were constrained within unknown biases that the participants may have had; and because the case study approach was not equipped to generalise the results beyond the study, more research testing cause-effect between the austerity and selected environmental parameters is needed, from various contexts.

Practical implications

Decision-making frameworks should explicitly acknowledge the unique pressures during austerity periods; and contemplate resilient decision-making frameworks that can withstand the hegemonic tendencies which prioritise economic goals above environmental ones.

Originality/value

Whilst the area of austerity’s impacts on the environment remains poorly evidenced, empirically, this seminal paper uses robust analysis to establish how the austerity policy atmosphere affects environmental decisions. This is insight into what may be happening in other similar situations outside Scotland, raising concern as to whether and how we should approach the challenge of hegemonic ideas.

Details

Management of Environmental Quality: An International Journal, vol. 30 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1477-7835

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Book part
Publication date: 30 May 2017

Tom Overmans

Since 2010, Dutch local authorities (LGs) have been coping with fiscal stress and austerity. Restoring fiscal balance is difficult for Dutch LGs as they have very limited…

Abstract

Since 2010, Dutch local authorities (LGs) have been coping with fiscal stress and austerity. Restoring fiscal balance is difficult for Dutch LGs as they have very limited abilities to increase the level of local income. Fundamental choices regarding policy priorities and public services are required to reduce fiscal deficits. An in-depth case study of four carefully selected LGs revealed three typical financial shocks in the Netherlands: the reduction of national transfers to LGs, the decentralisation of national tasks to LGs without corresponding budgets and the declined value of municipal assets (construction land). The perceived vulnerability for financial shocks is relatively high in Dutch LGs due to their undiversified and uncertain revenue sources. This chapter illustrates that while the anticipatory capacity initially was low, many efforts have been made since 2010 improving risk management and medium-term financial planning. Dutch LGs have typically deployed short-term and long-term responses to cope with austerity. Regarding the short-term, two types of responses were commonly used to balance the budget: cutting costs and postponing investments. Long-term responses were deployed to realign actual operational outputs with strategically desired outputs. Sticking to strategic plans was not easy as financial shocks evolved quickly. An important long-term response in the Netherlands was the ‘transition of the role of government in society’, moving from a proactive self-organising type of government towards a more passive, coordinating type of government. No evidence was found for radical changes of the financial system.

Details

Governmental Financial Resilience
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78714-262-6

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Article
Publication date: 26 July 2021

James Brackley, Penelope Tuck and Mark Exworthy

This paper examines the contested value of healthy life and wellbeing in a context of severe austerity, exploring how the value of “Public Health” is constructed through…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper examines the contested value of healthy life and wellbeing in a context of severe austerity, exploring how the value of “Public Health” is constructed through and with material-discursive practices and accounting representations. It seeks to explore the political and ethical implications of constructing the valuable through a shared consensus over the “facts” when addressing complex, multi-agency problems with long time horizons and outcomes that are not always easily quantifiable.

Design/methodology/approach

The theorisation, drawing on science and technology studies (STS) scholars and Karen Barad's (2007) agential realism, opens up the analysis to the performativity of both material and discursive practices in the period following a major re-organisation of activity. The study investigates two case authorities in England and the national regulator through interviews, observations and documentary analysis.

Findings

The paper demonstrates the deeply ethical and political entanglements of accounting representations as objectivity, consensus and collective action are constructed and resisted in practice. It goes on to demonstrate the practical challenges of constructing “alternative accounts” and “intelligent accountabilities” through times of austerity towards a shared sense of public value and suggests austerity measures make such aims both more challenging and all the more essential.

Originality/value

Few studies in the accounting literature have explored the full complexity of valuation practices in non-market settings, particularly in a public sector context; this paper, therefore, extends familiar conceptual vocabulary of STS inspired research to further explore how value(s), ethics and identity all play a crucial role in making things valuable.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 34 no. 7
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 19 January 2021

Laurence Ferry and Richard Slack

Hybrid organising faces a fundamental challenge in managing multiple and conflicting logics. Prior studies have evidenced the performative role of accounting within such a…

Abstract

Purpose

Hybrid organising faces a fundamental challenge in managing multiple and conflicting logics. Prior studies have evidenced the performative role of accounting within such a context largely in support of neoliberal hegemony and economic logic. Mindful of such conflict and the support towards economic logic, drawing on universal accountings, this study provides insights from counter accounting and its potential to serve pluralism and the emancipation of marginalised constituencies.

Design/methodology/approach

The research examined The Great Exhibition of the North (GEOTN), England's largest event in 2018, which utilised themes of art, design and innovation to support a regeneration and economic growth agenda. This was led by NewcastleGateshead Initiative (NGI) a hybrid organisation combining logics for economic and social legacies, whose accounts are contrasted to counter accounts from a social movement; The Other Great Exhibition of the North, “OtherGEN”. The study involved 30 in-depth semi-structured interviews, detailed observation and documentation review providing account and counter account of the event.

Findings

The findings reveal that GEOTN promoted an agenda offering a duality of economic and social logics through the arts and culture delivering a lasting economic and social legacy. This employed traditional accountings and associated performance targets and measurement through a formal evaluation framework. Emergent tensions were apparent evidencing a more dominant economic logic. The purported use of culture was portrayed as artwashing by a counter account narrative enmeshed in a backdrop of austerity. This wider accounting highlights the need for reflection on logic plurality and enables challenge to the performative role of traditional accounting in hybrid organising.

Originality/value

Universal accountings, such as counter accounting, can be advanced to unpack “faked” logics duality in hybrid organising. This reveals the emancipatory potential of accountings and the need for dialogic reflection. Hybrid organising requires careful consideration of accounting as a universal praxis to support social and economic pluralism and democratic ideals.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 6 November 2017

Laurence Ferry and Thomas Ahrens

Within the context of recent post-localism developments in the English local government, this paper aims to show, first, how management controls have become more enabling…

Abstract

Purpose

Within the context of recent post-localism developments in the English local government, this paper aims to show, first, how management controls have become more enabling in response to changes in rules of public sector corporate governance and, secondly, how changes in management control systems gave rise to new corporate governance practices.

Design/methodology/approach

Theoretically, the paper mobilises the concept of enabling control to reflect on contemporary changes in public sector corporate governance. It draws on the International Federation of Accountants’ (IFAC) and Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy’s (CIPFA) new public sector governance and management control system model and data gathered from a longitudinal qualitative field study of a local authority in North East England. The field study used interviews, observation and documentation review.

Findings

This paper suggests specific ways in which the decentralisation of policymaking and performance measurement in a local authority (present case) gave rise to enabling corporate governance and how corporate governance and management control practices went some way to aid in the pursuit of the public interest. In particular, it shows that the management control system can be designed at the operational level to be enabling. The significance of global transparency for supporting corporate governance practices around public interest is observed. This paper reaffirms that accountability is but one element of public sector corporate governance. Rather, public sector corporate governance also pursues integrity, openness, defining outcomes, determining interventions, leadership and capacity and risk and performance management.

Practical implications

Insights into uses of such enabling practices in public sector corporate governance are relevant for many countries in which public sector funding has been cut, especially since the 2007/2008 global financial crisis.

Originality/value

This paper introduces the concept of enabling control into the public sector corporate governance and control debate by fleshing out the categories of public sector corporate governance and management control suggested recently by IFAC and CIPFA drawing on observed practices of a local government entity.

Details

Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change, vol. 13 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1832-5912

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 8 August 2019

Helen Irvine and Christine Ryan

In the context of the Australian Government’s attempts to impose budget austerity measures on publicly funded universities in its higher education sector, the purpose of…

Abstract

Purpose

In the context of the Australian Government’s attempts to impose budget austerity measures on publicly funded universities in its higher education sector, the purpose of this paper is to assess the sector’s financial health.

Design/methodology/approach

The multi-dimensional study is based on seven years of government financial data from all 39 publicly funded Australian universities, supplemented by information from universities’ annual reports. Using a financial health model that reflects vulnerability, viability and resilience, the authors examine sector data using a suite of metrics. The authors analyse differences between those universities in the Top 10 and Bottom 10 by revenue, as a window into the financial health of the sector at large.

Findings

While mostly financially viable, the sector shows signs of financial vulnerability, particularly in the areas of expense control and financial sustainability. Possibly in response to an uncertain funding environment, universities are managing long-term liquidity by growing reserves. Debt represents largely untapped potential for universities, while differences between the Top 10 and Bottom 10 universities were most evident in the area of revenue diversity, a strong predictor of financial viability.

Research limitations/implications

Focussing on a specific set of financial metrics limits the scope of the study, but highlights further research possibilities. These include more detailed statistical analysis of data, financial case studies of individual universities and the implications of revenue diversification on academic standards.

Originality/value

The paper contributes to higher education literature, providing empirical evidence of universities’ finances. It highlights the importance of universities’ financial resilience in an uncertain funding environment.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 32 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 10 August 2015

David Varady, Reinout Kleinhans and Maarten van Ham

The aim of this paper is to assess the current potential of community entrepreneurship in neighbourhood revitalisation in the US and the UK. The global economic crisis has…

Abstract

Purpose

The aim of this paper is to assess the current potential of community entrepreneurship in neighbourhood revitalisation in the US and the UK. The global economic crisis has had a major impact on government spending for urban regeneration. In the context of these austerity regimes, in many European countries, community entrepreneurship and active citizenship are increasingly considered as a means to continue small-scale urban revitalisation. This paper investigates recent literature on both British community enterprises (CEs) and American community development corporations (CDCs).

Design/methodology/approach

Starting from a seminal article, this paper reviews literature focusing on the role of CEs and CDCs in neighbourhood revitalisation. Differences and similarities are analysed, taking into account national context differences.

Findings

While CDCs have a relatively successful record in affordable housing production in distressed areas, CDCs are fundamentally limited in terms of reversing processes of community decline. CEs in the UK have focused on non-housing issues.

Research limitations/implications

This paper asks the question what CEs can learn from CDCs in terms of scope, aims, strategies, accountability, assets and partnerships with public and private actors. However, a systematic literature review has not been conducted.

Originality/value

This comparison reveals not only similarities but also differences with regard to aims, organisational characteristics, cooperation on multiple scales and community participation. Apart from lessons that can be learned, this paper provides recommendations for further research that should cover the lack of empirical evidence in this field.

Details

Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy, vol. 9 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1750-6204

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 3 September 2020

Kelum Jayasinghe, Pawan Adhikari, Simon Carmel and Ana Sopanah

This paper analyses participatory budgeting (PB) in two Indonesian indigenous communities, illustrating how the World Bank sponsored neo-liberal model of “technical…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper analyses participatory budgeting (PB) in two Indonesian indigenous communities, illustrating how the World Bank sponsored neo-liberal model of “technical rational” PB is overshadowed by local values and wisdom, consisting of sophisticated, pre-existing rationalities for public participation.

Design/methodology/approach

Adopting a qualitative and interpretive case study approach, the study draws on data from semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders and periods of participant observation. The paper utilises Weber's characterisations of rationality to analyse the PB process in indigenous communities.

Findings

The co-existence of both formal (technical) and substantive rationalities leads two Indonesian indigenous communities to execute participatory budgeting pragmatically. The formal budgetary mechanisms (Musrenbang), cascaded down from central and local governments, are melded with, and co-exist alongside, a tradition of public participation deriving from local cultural values and wisdom (Rembug warga). Reciprocal relationships and trust based on a pre-existing substantive rationality result in community members adapting budget practices while also preserving their local culture and resisting the encroachment of neo-liberal initiatives. The paper offers deeper analysis of the unintended consequences of attempting to implement technical rational accounting reforms and practices in indigenous settings.

Originality/value

The paper provides important insights into the way the interplay between formal and substantive rationality impacts on accounting and budgeting practices in indigenous communities. Our study also presents a unique case in emerging economy contexts in which neoliberal initiatives have been outmanoeuvred in the process of preserving indigenous values and wisdom. The informal participatory mechanism (Rembug warga) retained the community trust that neoliberalism systematically erodes.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 33 no. 8
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 26 July 2021

Khanh Quoc Thai and Masayoshi Noguchi

The purpose of this study is to measure the technical efficiency of Japanese national universities over the period 2010–2016. In addition, the authors also sought to…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to measure the technical efficiency of Japanese national universities over the period 2010–2016. In addition, the authors also sought to identify the determinants of efficiency, especially those amenable to public policy intervention.

Design/methodology/approach

First, the authors ran a global intertemporal data envelopment analysis to understand the trends in efficiency for national universities over the relevant period. Following this, the authors conducted a second-stage regression using a double-bootstrapped truncated regression model to identify the possible determinants of efficiency.

Findings

The authors found no evidence to suggest that technical efficiency of national universities systematically decreased or increased in response to either structural reform or a reduction to government grants. Moreover, the share of government grants, the size of universities and disciplines of study offered by the universities were statistically significant determinants of efficiency.

Practical implications

The study results suggest that efficacious public policy remedies might include inter alia measures to reduce the reliance on public funding, efforts to attract more foreign students, the execution of mergers among small universities and consolidation of inefficient departments.

Originality/value

This research fills an important gap in the scholarly literature with respect to Japanese national universities and identifies possible determinants to efficiency, which are amenable to remedial public policy interventions.

Details

International Journal of Educational Management, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-354X

Keywords

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