Loveless, Lucy Ann-Marie (2012)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
Contemporary policy developments have signalled a shift in emphasis for Local Authorities from service delivery to service commissioning. The Every Child Matters policy agenda identified joint commissioning as an important mechanism for delivering integrated services and better outcomes for children.
Taking a case study approach and drawing on literature from the fields of policy implementation and evidence-based policy making this thesis explores the implementation of joint commissioning in one local authority. It examines how different policy actors conceptualise and practice commissioning within a particular organisational and political context.
In so doing it illustrates that policy is interpreted and reformulated at a local level, existing as the outcome of a complex set of interactions and ‘negotiated settlements’ between actors that are in part contingent upon the local political and organisational context and in part upon actors’ value systems, epistemological positions and goal interests.
Different ways in which commissioning is understood or ‘framed’ are orientated around alternative value systems with respect to accountability and its perceived acceptability as a mechanism of governance for public services. This in turn means that policy actors assign different roles to the forms of evidence with which they identify and construct responses to policy problems. Hence evidence for upwards accountability, principally framed as managerial targets and outputs, prefigures in the priority setting and evaluative ‘stages’ of the commissioning ‘cycle’, whilst appeal to a values base and experiential knowledge take centre stage in formulating local responses to identified priorities. Achieving the rhetorical ideal of evidence-based commissioning is thus compromised not only by the political and institutional context in which this takes place but also by the conceptual challenges this presents to differently situated policy actors.
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