This paper examines benchmarking as a tool of the modernisation process in local government and the contradictory tensions in the Best Value scheme are explored. Benchmarking is shown to encapsulate the dichotomous nature of a modernising philosophy which espouses innovation and local solutions alongside the government’s centralising tendencies. One consequence is the advancement of ‘compulsory’ and ‘defensive’ modes of benchmarking with local authorities benchmarking for external accountability reasons; issues of tangible improvement are secondary concerns. These tensions are viewed as irreconcilable, the implication is that local government will need to carefully manage and evaluate its benchmarking activities.
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