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Dispute Resolution and the Modernization of the Public Services in Britain: The Case of the Local Government Pay Commission

[Ian Kessler, University of Oxford] and Linda Dickens

Journal of Industrial Relations, Vol. 50, No. 4, 612-629

Abstract

This article focuses on an ad hoc body, the UK Local Government Pay Commission, as a means of developing a broader argument on the relationship between collective dispute resolution and the nature of public service reform. It suggests that the character of disputes in this sector and the `fitness for purpose' of those institutions designed to resolve them are critically related to an industrial relations agenda, which is in turn shaped by changing forms of public service provision. An extended period of public service `modernization' in local government led to a restructuring of collective bargaining with substantive and procedural consequences: new issues emerged and related tensions arose that could not be managed by the traditional bargaining machinery or by the use of existing third-party conciliation or arbitration mechanisms. It required relatively novel arrangements in the form of the LGPC whose nature and operation and lessons are discussed.