Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Negotiating Austerity and Local Traditions

Gardner, Alison; Lowndes, Vivien


Assistant Professor in Public Policy & Administration

Vivien Lowndes


Mark Bevir

R.A.W. Rhodes


Despite 30% cuts in English local government budgets since 2010, alongside rising demands for services, there has been little outward sign of crisis. On the contrary, political protest has been muted, public satisfaction remains steady and no local authority has suffered a major service failure, been declared bankrupt or attempted to set an unbalanced budget. This chapter addresses what we call the ‘austerity puzzle’. How can we explain the apparent disconnect between the pressures on local government and its continuing capacity to act? We argue that austerity policies are forcing a reconsideration of the ‘traditions’ that underpin contemporary local governance. We identify five core traditions (Civic, Collectivist, Professional, Enabling, and Communitarian traditions) and analyse case study data in relation to this framework, focusing on the emergence of two hybrid reform narratives: municipal enterprise and community commissioning. We find that local actors are not only ‘interpreting’ austerity, but actively negotiating a path through its limitations, drawing on generic local government traditions and locality specific knowledge. New and productive governance narratives and practices are emerging, but negotiations are also contested and in some cases incomplete.


Gardner, A., & Lowndes, V. (2016). Negotiating Austerity and Local Traditions. In M. Bevir, & R. Rhodes (Eds.), Rethinking Governance: Ruling, rationalities and resistance (125-143). Routledge

Acceptance Date Jul 1, 2016
Publication Date Oct 1, 2016
Deposit Date Nov 18, 2018
Publicly Available Date Nov 19, 2018
Publisher Routledge
Pages 125-143
Series Title Routledge studies in governance and public policy
Book Title Rethinking Governance: Ruling, rationalities and resistance
Chapter Number 8
ISBN 9781138889354
Public URL
Publisher URL


You might also like

Downloadable Citations