Abolishing the Audit Commission: framing, discourse coalitions and administrative reform

Katherine Tonkiss*, Chris Skelcher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The abolition of the Audit Commission in England raises questions about how a major reform was achieved with so little controversy, why the agency lacked the institutional stickiness commonly described in the literature on organisational reform and why it did not strategise to survive. In this paper, we apply argumentative discourse analysis to rich empirical data to reveal the pattern and evolution of storylines and discourse coalitions, and the ways in which these interact with and affect the practices of Parliament, the media and the Audit Commission itself. Our analysis shows that the politics of administrative reform are as much about discursive framing and the ability of pro-reformers to gain discursive structuration and institutionalisation as they are about the material resources available to a newly elected government and its ministers. Questions of technical feasibility are unlikely to derail a reform initiative once its promoters gain discursive ascendency.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)861-880
Number of pages20
JournalLocal Government Studies
Issue number6
Early online date29 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

© 2015 The Author(s). Published by Taylor & Francis.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Funding: ESRC (ES/J010553/1)


  • Audit Commission
  • reform
  • discourse coalition
  • local government
  • institutional stickiness


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