Assessing the Implementation of Institutional Change in Local Government: Christchurch City Council and the Long Term Community Council Plan
The weakening of public accountability in the public sector, observed after the New Public Management reforms in the late 1980s, raises concern about the merit and effectiveness of local government reforms in the early twenty-first century. The present study gives a contextual account of experience in replacing output-based performance measures with outcome-oriented performance measures in a New Zealand local council. A major purpose is to improve understandings of how institutional pressures affect actors in the public sector. We explore change at Christchurch City Council using the lens of the six-stage model of institutional change proposed by Greenwood et al. (2002). Responses from semi-structured interviews with four managers and a city councillor suggest that the less definable the outputs and/or outcomes of activities are, the harder it becomes for actors conform to new organisational practices. A strong finding is that processes of community consultation lead managers to be more people-oriented, and reduce information asymmetry between managers and councillors.