Community governance in the context of decentralisation

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: INLOGOV


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Description • In debates about decentralisation of decision-making and localism, we focus on issues of representation and accountability. This is not only because these are major concerns for central and local government, but also because these issues are the focus for day-to-day, very real local debates.
• Whilst our typology is a necessary simplification of complex debates and challenges, it offers a framework to understand why tensions in local areas about who makes decisions and who is accountable are hard to resolve.
• The typology also helps to explain how and why localism and community action is frustrated when different models are being used or advocated for by different organisations, and even within the same organisations.
• The different models in the typology all have articulate defenders in academic writing and local areas. In one sense, they are equally valid; choosing is an ideological preference.
• Beyond this neutral stance, advocates of Model 5 would say that dominance of traditional ways of thinking about representation and accountability present barriers towards greater community control and decentralisation.
• The typology sets out a radical, yet complementary, way of thinking about representation and accountability in Model 5, 'polycentric government', which offers a way of growing localism by focusing on local and democratic problem-solving and encouraging collaborative action.
• The underlying starting point for Model 5 is that government by itself is no longer the most effective way to solve problems and that it is not only possible, but necessary to bring communities and/or citizens into governance.
• This argument is already familiar from a wider policy stream (including early intervention, localism, community rights, personalisation, co-production and behaviour change) which aims to shift the default in local public service provision towards communities taking action and control of their lives and their local communities.
• These ideas are also emerging in local practice as 'asset-based approaches' which focus on motivating and mobilising communities and enabling them to take control, offering a sharp contrast to 'service dependence' approaches implied in Models 1-4.
• But these ambitions and activity are often limited by existing governance arrangements which can exclude and limit involvement from citizens.
• Our typology offers a heuristic for surfacing implicit models, challenging assumptions, identifying the cause of frustration and mixed messages and addressing the implications and consequences of community governance for representation and accountability
Exploitation Route The policy implications and recommendations of our research are:
• The typology is adapted and used by central and local government as a diagnostic tool to identify which model best fits policy aims, current practice, and goals, and identify where policies might sit within different models in a potentially contradictory way.
• The local government sector should undertake a serious re-examination of its assumptions about traditional models of representation.
• Both central and local government should make their model, or 'offer', explicit and transparent to citizens.
• Central government should incentivise take up of the Localism agenda based on how much progress local authorities have made towards model 5.
• Policies on community governance should be implemented in a complementary way, rather than being posed as alternatives to representative democracy.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice
Description The review has provided a platform for sustained non-academic engagement and impact, through: use as an acknowledged 'key source' in the development of policy and practice at a national and local level; Board and Advisory group membership of public and third sector organisations, including the Delivering Differently in Neighbourhoods (DDiN) pilot programme for the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG); influencing the continuing development and design of national programmes such as DDiN and Our Place, for example, the inclusion of a peer learning approach in the programme and in guidance materials for local projects; keynote and plenary engagements with policy makers and practitioners as part of network and learning events; commissioned training; development work with a series of local projects and organisations, Turning Point, podnosh, Rochdale Borough-wide Housing, Castle Vale Community Housing Association/ Partnership, Birmingham City Council neighbourhood devolution, York City Council, Stewkley Parish Council; together with the generation of tools, heuristics and blogs, for example on DCLG Knowledge Hub, to enhance and provide resources for learning and policy implementation.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services