A tangled web: a study of equal opportunities policy implementation within a local authority

Lee, Andrea Mary (1995) A tangled web: a study of equal opportunities policy implementation within a local authority. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The thesis explores the implementation gap between the intention and achievement of equal opportunity polices. It examines the policies and practices of a local authority to establish where, how and why the disjuncture between rhetoric and reality occurs. The study enters the assumptive world of policy makers to examine the implementation process.
The empirical material revealed how the equal opportunity policy became caught in a tangled web of competing and conflicting interests, which effectively constricted change. The web was seen to consist of four elements - the conceptual web of ambiguity and confusion which surrounds the concept of equal opportunity as the basis for policy; the web of conflicting interests - the members, the officers, the unions, personnel and equality officers, all of whom had different
understandings of equal opportunity which reflected the interests, priorities and concerns of their own assumptive world; the web of dominant interests which represented the deeper structure of policy, and the contradictions inherent in the normative white male frame of reference which shaped the ascription of policy and limited solutions; and the web of procedurally fair treatment which despite intention restricted rather than promoted change.
studies of equal opportunity and work on the procedural approaches to recruitment and selection.
The study utilised implementation context analysis to focus on the individuals and groups seeking to put policy into effect, combined with an understanding of the processes which structure their action. The focus of the study was the point of implementation when actors use discretion to operationalise policy. These actions reflect the subjective attributes, values, perceptions and beliefs which constitute the 'assumptive world' of the actor. The dimensions of discretion form the conceptual focus of the study. It is the degree of control over discretionary actions of the officials and the extent to which they share the same understanding of policy which will determine policy outcomes. The nature of the research required exploratory and qualitative research techniques. The study explores issues at a micro level through an in-depth case study focused mainly on two departments (the Fire Service and Social Service) within a local authority. These offered contrasting positions in terms of discretion.

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