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  • Author or Editor: Richard Cowell x
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Government efforts to increase civic engagement are predicated, in part, on the belief that this will lead to better public services. This assumption is tested by analysing the impact of different approaches to supporting active citizenship in English local authorities on their recorded service performance in 2005. Performance and support for active citizenship are modelled using data drawn from a national survey and secondary sources. The results suggest that councils which aim to promote understanding of citizenship among the public are more likely to have higher service performance, but that those which aim to increase citizen engagement in local governance are associated with lower performance in deprived areas.

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This chapter examines how reforms to the planning system in England since 2010 have affected the capacity of the system to deal effectively with environmental problems. The period 2010 to 2016 witnessed a progressive diminution of the environmental role of planning, legitimised by ideological desires to deregulate development and exacerbated by public sector austerity. Until the Brexit vote of 2016, however, there remained the stabilising framework of European Union environmental policy, which offered a system of bedrock protections. Since then, the planning–environment interface has been buffeted not only by planning reforms but also by the repercussions of Brexit for environmental policy. On the one side have been ministers exploring the new freedoms Brexit has given them to pursue opportunities for regulatory flexibility and streamlining. Set against these pressures, the implications of climate change, the nature crisis and the emergence of a new domestic environmental governance regime all push in the direction of firmer, long-term, goal-driven frameworks for planning. Should the latter prevail, the need to address ‘state failure’ on the environment could help to reverse decades of ‘planning failure’, but this outcome is far from guaranteed.

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Governments around the world are concerned about declining public confidence in democratic institutions. It has been widely assumed that improving the performance of public services will help address this problem. Policy makers in the United Kingdom (UK) have therefore been puzzled to discover that public confidence in local government continued to decline at a time when local services seemed to be improving. The reason for this apparent paradox is that public confidence is influenced by a wide array of factors only some of which are captured by official measures. Since different data can lead to quite different conclusions, it matters what is measured.

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