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Article
Publication date: 21 September 2021

Laurence Ferry and Mark Sandford

The relationship between central and sub-national (local) government is contentious around distribution of power and control. There is a specific concern when a (local…

Abstract

Purpose

The relationship between central and sub-national (local) government is contentious around distribution of power and control. There is a specific concern when a (local) place has power devolved, but centralised hierarchical accountability pervades.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper addresses that concern by considering recent innovative developments around place-based accountability arrangements in England, through analysis of official reports and news media.

Findings

The article illustrates aspirations towards accountability to the local electorate clash with hierarchical accountability that remains an omnipresent mechanism of central control. It is suggested, accountability forums be developed to blend hierarchy and the place leadership role of directly elected mayors. This could enable local accountability to the electorate, whilst taking account of the context of specific regional level complexities.

Originality/value

This is one of the first papers to consider issues of place leadership and place based accountability within the framework of hierarchical accountability for central and local government relations.

Details

Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management, vol. 34 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1096-3367

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 20 July 2021

Laurence Ferry, Guanming He and Chang Yang

The authors investigate how executive pay and its gap with employee pay influence the performance of Thailand tourism listed companies.

Abstract

Purpose

The authors investigate how executive pay and its gap with employee pay influence the performance of Thailand tourism listed companies.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors manually collect data on the executives' and employees' remunerations for Thailand tourism listed companies and use the data for the authors’ OLS regression analysis. To check the robustness of the results to potential endogeneity issues, the authors employ the two-stage least-squares regression analysis and the impact threshold for a confounding variable approach.

Findings

The authors find that short-term executive compensation enhances firm performance, and that long-term executive compensation reduces the likelihood of unfavorable corporate performance. The authors also find that the gap in short-term pay between executives and employees has an inverted-U relation with firm performance.

Research limitations/implications

This study suggests that higher executive pay relative to employee pay could encourage executives to work hard to improve corporate performance, but that too large a pay gap between executives and employees could impair employees' morale and harm firm performance.

Practical implications

It is important for tourism companies to not only pay executives well but also avoid too large a pay gap between executives and employees.

Social implications

This study implies the important role of compensation design in contributing to employee engagement and good performance for tourism firms.

Originality/value

This study sheds light on agency problems between executives and employees in tourism companies and provides new evidence and insights on compensation research in the tourism sector in emerging markets.

Details

Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Insights, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2514-9792

Keywords

Content available
Article
Publication date: 24 August 2020

Thomas Ahrens and Laurence Ferry

The financial resilience of local authorities has been a serious concern over the past decade due to austerity and its effects on local government budgets despite rising…

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Abstract

Purpose

The financial resilience of local authorities has been a serious concern over the past decade due to austerity and its effects on local government budgets despite rising service demands. More recently, the scale and suddenness of the shock from COVID-19 has exacerbated problems of financial resilience. This paper explores the financial management responses required by a sudden, nationwide pandemic of such severity.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper applies the concept of financial resilience to English local government to analyse their situation in the aftermath of COVID-19. It is based on a close reading of official reports and the news media.

Findings

Local authority’s financial resilience could deal with normal levels of risk arising from austerity. However, the seriousness of COVID-19 alongside pressures still emanating from Brexit requires a significant level of central government support. This is critical as local government is expected to underpin future economic growth of the UK as well as deliver an important social response. Presently, the financial framework for funding individual local authorities through central government in terms of COVID-19 support is not on a reliable footing to answer specific demands. This can lead to gaming and perverse incentives.

Originality/value

This is the first paper to connect the financial resilience in the local government framework with the required central government funding procedures for sudden nationwide crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. It identifies the need to define what effect key variables, such as local government financial reserves, local deprivation indices and anticipatory financial management practices in local government should have on the determination of central government aid for individual local authorities.

Details

Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management, vol. 32 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1096-3367

Keywords

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. 35 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 19 January 2021

Laurence Ferry, Larry Honeysett and Henry Midgley

This paper describes the role and remit of the Scrutiny Unit, which assists members of parliament (MPs) with the analysis of accounting data.

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper describes the role and remit of the Scrutiny Unit, which assists members of parliament (MPs) with the analysis of accounting data.

Design/methodology/approach

The analysis is developed through an understanding of the secondary literature and practical experience of the work of the Unit.

Findings

The Scrutiny Unit is an unappreciated and yet vital part of the way in which financial scrutiny operates within the UK parliament. It translates to MPs key financial and economic documents including the budget and accounts. It is a unique institution, covering the entire financial cycle of approval and accountability within parliament.

Originality/value

This is the first descriptive piece on the Unit in an accounting journal and contributes to our understanding of how financial accountability works within the UK parliament.

Details

Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management, vol. 33 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1096-3367

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 1 March 2021

Stuart Green and Laurence Ferry

This paper considers the nature and effect of accounting disturbances on organizational micro-practices in three secondary schools in England. A close application of a…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper considers the nature and effect of accounting disturbances on organizational micro-practices in three secondary schools in England. A close application of a developed model of Habermasian colonization provides a framing for both the ways in which accounting is implicated in organizational change and the effect of accounting disturbances on organizational micro-practices.

Design/methodology/approach

Qualitative field studies at three secondary schools were used to gather empirical detail in the form of interview data and documentary evidence. A total of 24 semi-structured interviews were conducted with teachers and bursars.

Findings

Accounting disturbances that were constitutive-transactional in nature had the greatest influence on organizational micro-practices. Behavioural responses to accounting disturbances can be organizationally ambiguous, subtle and subject to change over time.

Research limitations/implications

More field studies are needed, and there is scope to develop a longitudinal perspective to better understand the impact of accounting disturbances over time.

Originality/value

By framing the processes of accounting change using a developed model of Habermasian colonization, contributions are provided by illuminating aspects of both the processes of accounting colonization and the impact of accounting on organizational micro-practices. The findings also add to prior appreciations of reciprocal colonization, creative transformation of accounting disturbances and how accounting can be enabling.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 34 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

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…

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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

Content available
Article
Publication date: 18 May 2021

Thomas Ahrens and Laurence Ferry

This paper considers the accounting and accountability practices of the UK government’s response to COVID-19 for England, focussing on the first wave of the pandemic in 2020.

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper considers the accounting and accountability practices of the UK government’s response to COVID-19 for England, focussing on the first wave of the pandemic in 2020.

Design/methodology/approach

Based on a close reading of the news media and official reports from government departments, Parliament select committees and the National Audit Office, among others, this paper frames the UK government's uses of accounting and accountability in its response to COVID-19. This is by using the categories of “apparatuses of security”, Foucault's schematic of government for economising on the uses of state power.

Findings

The paper shows that an important role for accounting is in the process of enabling the government to gauge the extent of the crisis and produce calculations to underpin its response, what Foucault called “normalisation”. This role was unlike statistics and economics. The government relied most on monthly statistical reporting and budgeting flexibilities. By contrast, the multi-year Spending Review and financial reporting were not timely enough. That said, financial reporting fed into financial sustainability projections and enabled audit that could provide potential accountability regarding regularity, probity, value for money and fairness. The authors’ findings suggest that, conceptually, accountability should be added to the object–subject element of Foucault's apparatuses of security because of its significance for governments' ability to pursue crisis objectives that require popular assent.

Practical implications

In view of the ongoing uncertainty, with the crisis extending over longer budget and financial reporting periods, a Spending Review is becoming ever more necessary for better planning, without limiting, however, the budget flexibilities that have proven so useful for rapid government responses. Moreover, the government should continue its accounting reforms post COVID-19 so that improved accountability and audit can contribute to enhanced future financial resilience.

Originality/value

This is the first paper to apply Foucault's notion of apparatuses of security to an analysis of government accounting and accountability practices.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 34 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 16 March 2018

Thomas Ahrens, Laurence Ferry and Rihab Khalifa

This paper aims to trace the hybridising of financial and service expertise in English local authority budget control to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the…

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to trace the hybridising of financial and service expertise in English local authority budget control to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the contexts that gave rise to hybridisation than do previous accountability research frameworks.

Design/methodology/approach

Using practice theory, this paper interprets the findings from a field study of Newcastle City Council and a review of relevant local authority regulation for England, stretching back to the 1980s.

Findings

The hybridisation of financial and service expertise has entailed major changes to the practices on which local authority management depends, fuelled by a changing societal role of local authorities. Frequently, local authorities are no longer providers of public services but enablers who purchase services and manage arms-length contracts. This paper identifies some of the ways in which three structural elements that underpin local authority management practices have evolved to give rise to novel practices.

Research limitations/implications

Even though this paper’s research into changing regulatory frameworks, rules and evolving local authority financial practices is based on institutional changes in England since the 1980s, the fieldwork element which fleshes out certain implications for local authority practices has focused on Newcastle City Council. Future research could fruitfully examine these issues in other local authorities.

Practical implications

The hybridisation of financial and service expertise has contributed to reshaping local government beyond the rules that are put in place for regulating the sector by giving rise to new practices. Recent key developments include new service delivery arrangements, for example, through council-owned subsidiaries or third-sector organisations. It is important that, in an austerity context, new risks to “off the books” service quality is matched by new control and audit arrangements. Moreover, the professional bodies that service local government should recognise the new forms of hybridisation of finance and service expertise and ensure arrangements for the changing skill sets of those involved in service provision.

Originality/value

This is the first paper to analyse the emergence of hybrid financial expertise in the public sector with reference to distinct structural elements of the relevant practices.

Details

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, vol. 15 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1176-6093

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 30 September 2022

Thomas Ahrens and Laurence Ferry

This study is concerned with the institutional value dimension in recent accounting research into hybrids and hybridity. Such research has been cognitively oriented and…

Abstract

Purpose

This study is concerned with the institutional value dimension in recent accounting research into hybrids and hybridity. Such research has been cognitively oriented and neglected the affective and emotional qualities of the values in which institutions are grounded. This study assumes that organisational members use accounting for instrumental reasons conditioned by objective facts. This study aims to offer new impetus to this literature by taking seriously the nature of institutional value.

Design/methodology/approach

Essay combined with discussion of published work.

Findings

Cognitive misinterpretations of institutional value underplay the force of institutions. One acts upon these not as a matter of cognitive choice but because of beliefs in deeply held values. In the extreme, the value possesses the actor not vice versa. However, because institutional values are ideal and abstract, they can never be fully and incontrovertibly achieved in practice. Certain practices, such as accounting, can come to stand in for the pursuit of the institutional value. In particular contexts, practicing accounting can come to be regarded as pursing institutional values, which makes it an institutional object.

Originality/value

The explication of accounting as an institutional object can show the potential significance of accounting for institutional values, including hybrid values.

Details

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1176-6093

Keywords

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