There is a widespread view that local democracy in Britain is in deep trouble and that people face a crisis of civic engagement and political participation. This book counterweighs the many negative accounts that seek to dominate the political discourse with talks on political apathy and selfish individualism. It commences with an examination of theoretical debates as to the meaning of local democracy and related concepts. The book looks at the policy agenda around local democracy in the context of the developing nature of central/local relations since 1979. It considers the available evidence on level of political participation and civic engagement by looking at eight themes. These include the state of formal politics, forms of civic engagement, community identity and the emerging world of the internet/world wide web. The book also looks at nine key aspects of the reform of local democracy over the last fifteen years, including local democracy and the New Labour reform agenda; the constitutional position of local government; and double devolution. It focuses on the so-called 'crisis of formal democracy' at the local level. The book ascertains the recent developments beyond the realm of elections, political parties and formal political institutions. It then concentrates on local services and policy attempts to widen public participation in the shaping and delivery of such services. Finally, the book discusses the concept of sustainability and regeneration strategies to build sustainable communities, both physical and social.
of the Labour government being both contradictory and uncertain at times. Yet the mood music, notwithstanding the
occasional discordant note, was softer in tone. There was, it appeared, the
potential for a more vibrant local politics.
In this context, the chapter focuses on nine key aspects of the reform of
local democracy over the last fifteen years: local democracy and the NewLabourreform agenda; the constitutional position of local government;
double devolution; the citizen engagement, neighbourhood and empowerment agenda; civic engagement, neighbourhood
demand for services. For this reason a fundamental aspect of the NewLabourreform programme was to institute systems by which resource
allocation was, at least in part, a function of user demand. In the NHS – to
take the best example of this – this took the form of Payment by Results.
Under the traditional system of NHS financing through block grants, Tony
Blair claimed, ‘there were no financial incentives to treat more patients,
nor for hospitals to cut their costs. This meant that the inefficient hospitals
would have little incentive to improve . . . Nor