Stakeholder theory and practice: how does it affect the management of parks and green spaces?

Sullivan, Sidney George (2011) Stakeholder theory and practice: how does it affect the management of parks and green spaces? (DBA thesis), Kingston University, .


Stakeholder involvement in securing service standards, priorities and effectiveness was made a requirement of the Local Government Act 1999, England and Wales. This legislation built upon the 1998 White Paper, Modern Local Government in Touch with the People which formed part of the incoming 1997 Labour government's key principles as described in the Labour Party's 1997 Manifesto. This agenda replaced the implicit 'lowest price principle' of the Compulsory Competitive Tendering (CCT) legislation of the outgoing Conservative administration. Stakeholder theory and practice is central to this change agenda. Furthermore, it was applied to public service management without adaptation to the complexity and nature of the governance of local authorities. This research examines 3 case studies of local authorities to explore whether and how the implementation and impact of the necessity for local authorities to identify, consult with and involve stakeholders in setting standards has been enacted. It considers the impact of these requirements on stakeholder theory, stakeholders, political and managerial relationships. The literature review critiques stakeholder theory as described by Freeman (1984) and particular aspects of stakeholder management: engagement (Arnstein, 1969); salience (Mitchell, Agle and Wood, 1997); normative and instrumental behaviours (Donaldson and Preston, 1995); and moral enlightenment (Kohlberg, 1981). Government agencies explicitly or implicitly advocated those constructs for their usefulness when planning for and consulting stakeholders. The conclusion is that stakeholder theory as described is insensitive to the complexity of local authorities' political, managerial and stakeholders' agendas. Furthermore, that it requires further development to ensure that it is relevant to the nature and the style of local authorities' responsibilities. It establishes that the distinction between consulting and engaging with stakeholders is fraught with confusion. Finally, the relationship between power, legitimacy and urgency of stakeholder claims results in political and managerial pragmatism and is consistent with those aspects of stakeholder theory described by Mitchell, Agle and Wood, (1997). This research identified issues of managerial concern. Of particular importance is the different use and understanding of language by stakeholders, managers and politicians. This is an under-reported aspect of Freeman (1984). Furthermore, the contribution of unrepresentative stakeholders in shaping council policy challenges the democratic process and is of concern to senior managers and politicians. This in turn undermines the requirement for stakeholder inclusiveness and involvement. Finally, it is established that policy at the point of implementation is often a result of local contextual adaptation, 'bricolage', on the part of the manager. The research makes a distinct contribution by identifying 'how' and 'why' stakeholder theory is too insensitive for direct useful application to local authorities. It finds that policy advice from government agencies concerning stakeholder consultation for best value has mostly been ignored, although many themes identified in the theory and advice were identified in the data collected. Finally, this research has provided the first empirical data on this subject and increases understanding of 'how' and 'why' stakeholder consultation has been undertaken in the parks and greenspace sector. In so doing, it contributes to an understanding of practice in action and the amending of behaviour that constitute implementation of strategic stakeholder theory and managerial policy, thereby creating an agenda for future research.

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