Five: More local than local government: the relationship between local government and the neighbourhood agenda

This chapter considers the relationship between neighbourhood, decentralisation, and elected local government in the context of prevailing central-local relations. It examines the variety of motivations that have underpinned local authorities’ ‘move to the neighbourhood’ over time, highlights some trends in decentralisation strategies, and identifies the key ‘trade-offs’ that have confronted local authorities pursuing a neighbourhood agenda. It pays particular attention to the role of ‘decentralisation’ and ‘neighbourhood’ in policy discourses and in those ‘processes of argument, acceptance and change’ through which ‘administrative doctrines’ — ideas about what is to be done — gain ground, while competing doctrines are ignored or treated ‘as heresies or outdated ideas’. It considers whether the persistent attraction of neighbourhood in the narratives of local governance lies in its imprecision — in its ability to contain contradiction and convey much that cannot quite be spelt out.

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