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  • Author or Editor: Ben Clifford x
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Challenging Austerity through Municipal Entrepreneurialism

This book provides crucial insight into the fight back against austerity by local authorities through emerging forms of municipal entrepreneurialism in housing delivery.

Capturing this moment within its live context, the authors examine the ways that local authorities are moving towards increased financial independence based on their own activities to implement new forms and means of housebuilding activity. They assess these changes in the context of the long-term relationship between local and central government and argue that contemporary local authority housing initiatives represent a critical turning point, whilst also providing new ways of thinking about meting housing need.

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Practitioners in the neoliberal age

Since the turn of the 21st century, there has been a greater pace of reform to planning in Britain than at any other time. As a public sector activity, planning has also been impacted heavily by the wider changes in the way we are governed. Yet whilst such reform has been extensively commented upon within academia, few have empirically explored how these changes are manifesting themselves in planning practice.

This new book aims to understand how both specific planning and broader public sector reforms have been experienced and understood by chartered town planners working in local authorities across Great Britain.

After setting out the reform context, successive chapters then map responses across the profession to the implementation of spatial planning, to targets, to public participation and to the idea of a ‘customer-focused’ planning, and to attempts to change the culture of the planning. Each chapter outlines the reaction by the profession to reforms promoted by successive central and devolved governments over the last decade, before considering the broader issues of what this tells us about how modernisation is rolled-out by frontline public servants.

This accessible book fills a gap in the market and makes ideal reading for students and researchers interested in the UK planning system.

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This chapter focuses on the role and history of local government in the United Kingdom, which are inextricably linked with housing provision and delivery in its administrative areas. It reviews the period since 1980 wherein the local government's housing role was lessened and almost removed, particularly in England. It also explains the intentional changes in the perceived level of strength of the local government through the removal of the housing function in order to reduce the centrality of its relationship to its community and its local spending power. The chapter mentions former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who intended to undermine the local government's core support from Labour voters. It explains the history of the provision of the local authority that demonstrates how it has always been a contractual relationship offered by the government.

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This chapter looks at local authorities in England that have been intimately involved in the twin crises of super-austerity and housing over the past decade. It discusses the context of the resilient and adaptive system of the local government in England, wherein the authorities' pushback against austerity favoured their own direct action in delivering housing. It also highlights the local authorities' direct role in housing delivery and considers what has motivated them to get engaged in direct delivery. The chapter covers the local authorities' frustrations at private developers within the planning system. It examines how the forms of provision that deal with homelessness, and housing and income generation are enabled legislatively.

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This chapter deals with the application of austerity since 2010 as a political act designed to transform the way in which local authorities in the United Kingdom operate and are funded. It explains how the local authorities have been dependent on government funding as the UK is considered as one of the most centralised states in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It also recounts how the UK government in 2010 decided that the Revenue Support Grant (RSG) funding paid to councils would be removed through annual tapering to zero by 2020. The chapter probes the intention of the UK government to replace RSG with each of the council's retention of 75 per cent of the local business rates. It analyses the system of local government funding that operated until local government reorganisation in 1974.

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This chapter reviews how local authorities in England have taken a range of initiatives to respond to super-austerity and face the twin crises of managing housing demand and supply. It discusses the restructuring of the form of local government and the creation of new unitary authorities or merging council administrations. It also explores the involvement of a range of direct activities for the local government to meet specific needs for housing and generate more income through property acquisition and investment. The chapter investigates the extent to which local authorities have engaged in asset- and income-generation approaches. It describes how councils have continued to extend their activities in a cumulative way, as they gain more confidence and learn from others.

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This chapter discusses how local authorities are drawing on their powers, resources, cultures, and experiences to address challenges in the Conservative Party's austerity policy and promote their financial security for the future. It refers to England's the central government that enabled and encouraged greater delivery of housing by the private sector as a solution to the housing crisis. It also talks about the local planning system that shifted its focus to the provision of housing land for private developers. The chapter elaborates how local authorities were synonymous with housing regulation and provision for a hundred years until 1980. It mentions local communities that expect councils to be the main providers of housing in their communities.

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This chapter explores reaction to the spatial planning agenda, primarily within planning policy. This is primarily considered in relation to New Labour’s introduction of the Local Development Framework system in England. Empirical data show that planners broadly supported these reforms but felt that, in practice, the Government’s own aims were not being met. Comparing empirical material in this study to that from Labour Government commissioned reports, it is demonstrated that planners were most likely to blame external factors for problems associated with reforms, whilst the Government tended to highlight the role of the planning profession itself and the claimed need for a culture change in the profession. Whilst further reforms to planning processes have been introduced by the Coalition government, a more spatial approach to planning appears to have become embedded in local government.

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This chapter explores how local authority planners responded to the Labour Government’s performance management agenda for planning, particularly the targets for speed of the development control function. It is revealed that the performance agenda has had a massive impact on the professional life of planners ‘at the coalface’. In common with other public sector professions, a range of negative consequences were associated with the targets, including concerns about a focus on process over outcome and a range of unintended consequences. Strikingly, however, most planners did not support the abolition of targets. A range of ways in which planners have successfully used national targets to further their own agendas are evident. Having discussed the continued currency of the efficiency agenda for the Coalition government, it is concluded that there is significant active agency amongst these frontline professionals, whilst working within an overall structure imposed by central government.

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This chapter looks at how planners are reacting to the emphasis on public participation and the rise of a ‘consumerist’ approach in the planning reform agenda. This data leads to discussion of the tensions between the participation and other planning reform agenda, of the arguments planners find in favour of participation and of the many difficulties it presents for local authority planners in practice. The ways in which planners have responded to the growth of the concept of the ‘customer’ across the public sector since the 1990s is also discussed. Data show a somewhat lukewarm reception to the concept. Planners seem to define ‘the customer’ as anyone coming into contact with the planning service, and certainly not just paying applicants. There is a widespread perception of a need for professional planners to balance the competing interests of different ‘customers’. Such perceptions arguably render the customer ideal meaningless. Overall, the chapter concludes that planners are broadly supportive of participation, so long as they are able to manage it, and that the government continues to expect them to play that role.

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