Purpose Reform of local political management continues to be part of the international agenda for change as governments seek to create the conditions for better performance in local government. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the impact of changes in political management upon the performance of local government, with England as a case study, and the implications for local government reform elsewhere. Design/methodology/approach Using statistical data derived from the system of comprehensive performance assessment (CPA), the analysis uses Kendall’s tau to correlate CPA score per local authority against the respective political governance arrangement of each local authority in England. Findings As the correlation coefficient did not reach the level of statistical significance, the principal finding is that the relationship between different political governance arrangements and local authorities’ performance is not demonstrated. The implications of this for governments’ reforms of political management are discussed. Research limitations/implications – The data are based upon English sources and point to the importance of conducting comparable analysis in other societies that have undergone similar changes in local political management. Practical implications – In instituting reforms of local governance, governments rarely pay serious attention to measurable outcomes and the paper suggests the value in so doing. Originality/value The specific relationship between local political management and performance has not previously been measured in precisely this way.