The scale of the cuts to local government finance, coupled with increasing demand for services, has led to unprecedented ‘budget gaps’ in council budgets. Arguably, two competing narratives of the trajectory of local government have emerged in which contrasting futures are imagined for the sector – a positive story of adaptation and survival and more negative one of residualisation and marginalisation. Drawing on case study evidence from three English local authorities, the paper distinguishes and provides examples of three strategic approaches to managing austerity – efficiency, retrenchment and investment. It demonstrates how and why the balance of these strategies has shifted between the early and later phases of austerity and considers the extent to which the evidence of the case studies provide support for either the survival or marginalisation narrative. The paper concludes by arguing that a third narrative – responsibilisation – captures more fully the trajectory of local government in England.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science