Citation: Purcell, M. E. (2015). Public Participation in New Local Governance Spaces: The Case for Community Development in Local Strategic Partnerships. IAFOR Journal of Politics, Economics & Law, 2(1). https://doi.org/10.22492/ijpel.2.1.01
Research into public participation in local decision-making has increased over the past forty years, reflecting increased interest in the subject from academic, policy and practitioner perspectives. The same applies to community development, a values-based profession promoting a transformational agenda.
During the New Labour government’s period in office (1997-2010), public participation featured centrally in several policies, reflecting their adherence to communitarian theory and Third Way politics. Additionally, the language of community development (promoting community empowerment and social justice) featured in these policies. Guidance for Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs) – central to New Labour’s local government reforms – required them to facilitate public participation in decision-making, and used the language and values of community development.
This paper reports on research into LSPs’ public participation practice. Applying a constructivist methodology, the research applied an evaluative framework reflecting the community development values in all 22 LSPs in the Yorkshire & Humber region. Data was collected through documentary review and interviews with LSP officials in each participating LSP. Case study research was conducted in one LSP, concentrating on two communities, generating deeper understanding of the process of facilitating public participation in different circumstances.
Notions of power feature centrally in the analysis, and the research concludes that local authorities struggle to relinquish power to communities in any meaningful way, even within the context of government guidance requiring this process to be implemented. These findings are extrapolated to present a brief critique of the present UK government’s stated commitment to de-centralising power to communities in various policy areas.
public participation, community development, local strategic partnerships