Austerity urbanism in England: The ‘regressive redistribution’ of local government services and the impact on the poor and marginalised

Annette Hastings*, Nick Bailey, Glen Bramley, Maria Gannon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Citations (Scopus)
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That contemporary austerity is being realised to a large extent in and through cities is a growing theme in urban scholarship. Similarly, the concern that the economically marginalised are disproportionately impacted as ‘austerity urbanism’ takes hold drives a significant body of research. While it is clear that substantial austerity cuts are being downloaded onto cities and their governments, the evidence on whether it is the most disadvantaged fractions of the urban population which suffer as a consequence remains thin. Moreover, the mechanisms by which the downloading to the poor occurs are unclear. This paper identifies how austerity cuts are transmitted to the poor and marginalised in the context of severe cuts to the spending power of English local government. It identifies three transmission mechanisms and shows how these operate and with what outcomes, drawing on empirical evidence at the English national and local city levels. The paper provides robust evidence from national data sources and from in-depth, mixed-method case studies to show that the effects of austerity urbanism are borne most heavily by those who are already disadvantaged. It also demonstrates the importance of identifying the specific mechanisms by which downloading on to the poor occurs in particular national contexts, and how this contributes to understanding, and potentially resisting, the regressive logic of austerity urbanism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2007-2024
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironment and Planning A: Economy and Space
Issue number9
Early online date16 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017


  • Austerity
  • cities
  • downloading
  • economically marginalised
  • local government

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)


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