Elected Officials in an Era of Austerity: Stewards, Mediators, and Catalysts

Needham, C.; Mangan, C.; Bottom, K. and Parker, S. (2020). Elected Officials in an Era of Austerity: Stewards, Mediators, and Catalysts. In: Sullivan, H.; Dickinson, H. and Henderson, H. eds. The Palgrave Handbook of the Public Servant. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, pp. 1–19.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-03008-7_18-1


Elected officials in local government have increasingly come to play a role as collaborative leaders, overseeing a complex pattern of relationships in a mixed economy of local public services. In England, severe cuts to local government spending in the last decade have shrunk the scope of local government and further emphasized the importance of collaborative leadership skills. In this chapter we draw on new empirical data from an English region to explore the roles of elected officials (known as councillors) in an era of austerity, drawing on the three ideal types of collaborators developed by Ansell and Gash (Innov J Public Sector Innov J 17(1):1–21, article 7, 2012): stewards, mediators, and catalysts. In response to severe budget cuts, councillors increasingly frame their roles in ways that map onto the steward, mediator, and catalyst. However, these roles magnify existing boundary dilemmas for councillors: between the councillor and the officer, between the public and private self, and between the amateur and the professional. Understanding these roles and boundary dilemmas highlights the need for new forms of training and support for councillors.

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