Local Governance under the Coalition Government: Austerity, Localism and the 'Big Society'

Vivien Lowndes, Lawrence Pratchett*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

252 Citations (Scopus)


The Coalition between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, formally created on 11 th May 2010, has introduced a range of initiatives which affect local governance, from the announcement of a new Localism Bill through to the abolition of the Audit Commission and the arrival of the 'Big Society' agenda. This article reviews the key policy announcements of the Coalition's first year and analyses the underlying themes and trends which are emerging. It argues that the Coalition's reforms do show traces of an ideological commitment to localism and a new understanding of local self-government; there is an ideological agenda which has the potential to deliver a radically different form of local governance. However, the reform process is far from coherent and the potential for radical change is heavily constrained by: conflicts in Conservative thinking and the failure of the Liberal Democrats to assert their own ideology; the political expediency of budget cuts during an era of austerity and; the problems of implementing an apparently radical agenda after 13 years of New Labour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-40
Number of pages20
JournalLocal Government Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012


  • 'Big Society'
  • austerity
  • Coalition
  • local governance
  • localism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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