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  • Author or Editor: Eileen Lepine x
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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— ideas about what is to be done — gain ground, while competing doctrines are ignored or treated ‘as heresies or outdated ideas’.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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This chapter draws on concepts of neighbourhood governance in terms of ‘sites’, ‘spaces’, and ‘spheres’ to examine its realities. It brings together key issues raised by contributing authors in order to examine the potential place of neighbourhood governance in a new settlement between central and local government, community and citizen. It explains that in doing so, it does not claim that neighbourhood governance is the answer to all the challenges of a complex society — it also addresses the limitations of neighbourhood governance — but it argues for an understanding of its proper place in a complex polity. Hence, this chapter examines the importance of context in shaping developments in neighbourhood governance, the place of the neighbourhood within multi-level governance, and the assumptions about democracy that underpin these new forms of governance.

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Neighbourhood governance in contemporary urban policy

“Disadvantaged by where you live?” distils lessons from work on neighbourhoods carried out within the Cities Research Centre of the University of the West of England over the past seven years. It offers a major contribution to academic debates on the neighbourhood both as a sphere of governance and as a point of public service delivery under New Labour since 1997.

The book explores how ‘the neighbourhood’ has been used in policy in the UK; what the ‘appropriate contribution’ of neighbourhood governance is and how this relates to concepts of multi-level governance; the tensions that are visible at the neighbourhood level and what this tells us about wider governance issues.

The book explores and reflects on the notion of neighbourhood governance from a variety of perspectives that reflect the unique depth and breadth of the Centre’s research programme. Neighbourhood governance is examined in relation to: multi-level governance and city-regions; local government; mainstreaming; cross-national differences in neighbourhood policy; community and civil society; diversity; different conceptions of democracy; and, evaluation and learning. In doing so, the book identifies useful conceptual tools for analysing the present and future contribution of policy to neighbourhoods.

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This chapter offers an overview of the development of neighbourhood policy in the UK and an introduction to a decade of New Labour policy on neighbourhoods. It also introduces key New Labour policies and some key academic debates on the nature of governing and being governed. It explores the idea and practice of neighbourhood governance, which frames the key issues and themes throughout this book. It notes that the different aspects of the new governance can be argued to have created room for the emergence of neighbourhood governance as an important component of a multi-level and multi-actor environment. It suggests that the emergence of neighbourhood governance can be understood in terms of sites, spaces, or spheres, each with distinctive characteristics but also with potentially overlapping rules, structures, and processes.

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