‘Managing’ the middle classes: Urban managers, public services and the response to middle-class capture

Annette Hastings*, Nick Bailey, Glen Bramley, Robert Croudace, David Watkins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


There is a longstanding concern about middle-class capture of the benefits of public service provision, although relatively little evidence exists on the exact nature of any advantage or on the processes by which this comes about. Using a framework developed from Gal (J. Gal, 1998. Formulating the Matthew Principle: on the role of the middle-classes in the welfare state. Scandinavian Journal of Social Welfare, 7, 42-55), and via two case studies of street cleansing services in the UK, the article explores the ways in which middle-class service users assert influence in relation to service design, resource allocation and practice on the ground. It explores how urban managers respond to middle-class influence, revealing the ways in which influence is accommodated and the benefits of this to middle-class service users. It also evidences how urban managers attempt to resist aspects of middle-class advantage, and the challenges such resistance presents. The article concludes that the need to 'manage' middle-class influence permeates the routine institutional policies and practices of this key public service.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-223
Number of pages21
JournalLocal Government Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • environmental services
  • inequality
  • localism
  • middle classes
  • middle-class capture
  • neighbourhoods
  • Public services

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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