There has been a major debate on the merits of accrual accounting in the public sector in general. This paper is an implementation study of accrual accounting in local government. It examines this issue from an implementation perspective. The implementation perspective adopted draws on Matland's ambiguity–conflict model (1995). This research is informed by a combined methods approach: the analysis of public documents and debates; a survey of local authority capital accountants and case study information on management's perceptions of this accounting information. This research reveals a complex outcome of reformers' initiatives which has resulted in these accounting changes being retained within the accounting domain and having limited impact on wider potential users of this information.