Central-local relations in an era of multi-level governance: the case of public participation policy in England, 1997-2001

Sullivan, Helen; Knops, Andrew; Barnes, Marian and Newman, Janet (2004). Central-local relations in an era of multi-level governance: the case of public participation policy in England, 1997-2001. Local Government Studies, 30(2) pp. 245–265.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/0300393042000267263

Abstract

The election of a 'New Labour' UK government in 1997 promised a new era of central-local relations facilitated by a programme of local government reform which recognised local government's 'community leadership' role. Other aspects of the agenda supported the development of multi-level governance, for example, the establishment of sub-national institutions such as the Scottish Parliament and the promotion of neighbourhoods as key sites for action. Despite these actions this paper will argue that in England the central state retains considerable influence over the key agents of local governance. Using the example of public participation policy, and drawing on the findings of a recent study in two English cities, the paper will explore how national policy aspirations were reflected locally. It concludes that while local action generally complemented national priorities, there were important points of contrast, and that localities' capacity to act in their own interests is supported by the opportunities presented in a multi-level governance environment.

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