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Category: Localism

Devolution, austerity and community leadership in English Local Government

By Alison Gardner.

The ‘Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill’ published at the end of May 2015 provided the cornerstone for the new government’s flagship decentralisation agenda.  Yet as Professor Robin Hambleton has recently argued, rather than granting increased power to local government, the bill’s focus on a new layer of sub-regional, combined authorities will actually move power further away from local communities.  This problem has potential to be exacerbated by the erosion of local authorities’ ‘community leadership’ role, due to financial pressures associated with austerity.

During the early 1990s, academics and practitioners championed a role for English local government ‘not just to deliver certain services well but to steer a community to meet the full range of its needs’.  Although the idea of community leadership has deep historic roots, the 1990s saw a resurgence of interest in the contribution of local government to the strategic development and wellbeing of a locality, through its capacity to connect fragmented layers of governance in an increasingly fractured service delivery landscape.