Increasingly, local authorities are being asked to stand on their own two feet and fund welfare provision, economic development and urban regeneration themselves. Mirroring developments in Western Europe and North America, urban policy is increasingly fragmented, dispersed and financialised.
The opportunity for new financial powers and fiscal decentralisation has been welcomed by some civic leaders in the UK as an opportunity for territorial freedom, governance and power. What these leaders want is power and the roll back of centuries of centralised government, echoing the level of subsidiarity seen in most of Europe and North America.
However, findings from a research project I’ve undertaken with Paul Greenhalgh at R3intelligence, based at Northumbria University, suggest enhanced power for local authorities also brings with it certain risks in uncharted territory. This is because recent forays into fiscal decentralisation have coincided with unprecedented levels of austerity and local authority cuts.