Marketing in a local authority
In most developed economies, where there is a significant public sector, local authorities are under pressure to respond more effectively to the needs of their local communities. The pattern of development is to transfer the onus of responsibility for socially beneficial services from centrally-organized and self- sufficient provision to one regulated by competitive market conditions and locally-made decisions. Countries like Canada, France, Germany and the USA have moved significantly in this direction.
Since 1979, in England, a number of major reforms have been put in place by over 81 new Acts of Parliament to encourage change in how local authorities provide and manage services. A public organization, like a local authority, must include the core characteristics of accountability and political process.
However, these reforms have introduced forms of competitive practices from the private sector to create internal markets and a competitive ethos. Local authorities are being encouraged to develop distinctive private sector practices and characteristics in innovation, efficiency and effectiveness
Traditionally, local authorities have not embraced the profit-oriented management goals of the private sector, nor have they embraced a marketing- led philosophy in how they conduct their business. Currently, local authorities are moving away from their traditional role, as purely providers of socially- beneficial services, towards wishing to meet the needs of their local residents, or ?customers? under the aegis of a market-led orientation. The evidence is that companies using marketing and marketing management methods are more successful overall in providing what customers want and achieving their goals than those which do not.
As a marketing orientation emphasizes satisfying customers? needs, and if goals other than a profit figure can be integrated with marketing and marketing management techniques, then local authorities might accrue benefits from managing services using this type of orientation.
With this in mind, the theme of the article questions:
==>Does marketing have an important role to play for local authorities?
==>Is its role one which can be integrated with the public service ethic of accountability and political process, which is at the core of local authority functioning?
==>Can it be successfully integrated with the characteristics of efficiency, effectiveness and innovation seen in the private sector, with beneficial outcomes other than a bottom line profit figure?
==>How will marketing be used in a local authority and what can it contribute to local authority management in the future?
Research on the subject has been carried out by the author using a sample of seven local authorities in the North West.