Mind the gap: Australian local government reform and councillors’ understandings of their roles
Over the last two decades a feature of local government reforms globally has been the introduction of New Public Management (NPM). Under this broad approach to public administration there is an expectation that councillors play a greater strategic role and move away from involvement in day-to-day management. This research, carried out in the state of Victoria, Australia, examines councillors’ understandings of their roles. Based on 17 in-depth interviews and two focus groups, we found that despite the evolving legislative requirements framing councillors as policymakers not managers, most councillors continued to seek involvement in the day-to-day management of councils. We argue that this gap may be linked to the diversity of views concerning the role of the councillor and the idea of representation and how both play out at the local level. It may also signal a lack of awareness as to how the legislatively inscribed role for councillors has changed over time.
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