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A Discussion on Partnership which is now on the agenda

as an important feature of local governance in the UK

Why has this developed, and is it delivering what cities


Özlem Katısöz


Local governance is a trendy concept involving the dynamics of contemporary

public policy and local politics agenda. Influence of the neoliberal agenda as well

as overall decentralisation trend have changed the understanding of how and in

what spatial unit the problems are supposed to be solved. Local governance, in

that context, is like a mirror reflecting the circumstances of the period stressing

out the need for a bottom-up approach, grassroots‘ awareness and inclusion

within a local spatial scale. Partnership is not the only but one of the most

important strategies of this new governing system called local governance. The

paper, here, aims to examine two issues in this regard, (1) to analyse how the

concept of partnership working has emerged and developed in local governance

particularly in terms of tackling against deprivation and problems in social issues

such as education, health and employment (2) to discuss whether it is delivering

what cities need. In the first section, background and theoretical framework

which concepts like governance, local governance emerged in and what it means

in urban politics are going to be presented. In the second part, partnership

working as a particular strategy is going to be investigated; what it means and

why it matters. In the third part the paper analyses what matters to

contemporary cities and discusses whether the partnership working delivers

what cities need drawing on the practises.

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Over the past several decades, the contexts and dynamics of socio-urban space

have undergone a dramatic change and new ways of city management has been

required to meet the challenges of this contemporary changing economic

environment. This is evaluated as the emergence of new urban politics and

emergence of the ‗new‘ or the ‗entrepreneurial‘ city producing new mechanics

and constellations of urban order in literature (Harvey 1989, Hall & Hubbard

1998, MacLeod 2002, Smart & Smart 2003, Fischer et al. 2004).

As of 70s‘ transformation as national government ceased its assistance and

influence on local government – which Brenner (2003) calls state rescaling or

Corry and Stoker (cited in Geddes 2006) call neoliberalization of urban space. As

of 1990s as a response to the emergence of fragmentation and need for

collaboration and coordination between agencies brought up the concept of joint

up governance. All the way throughout this transformation

 the local governments gained a business-like attribute such as risk-taking,

profit motivation,

 new form of urban politics emerged which has been mostly shaped by

participation of private sector

 managerialist and networked institutions have been created

 public monopoly local services are eliminated and they are replaced by

competitive contracting and privatized provision

 economic promotion through a range of local supply-side policies and localized,

competitive entrepreneurial strategies have been replaced the traditional

compensatory regional policies

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 the old bureaucratic „silos‟ and the local politicians associated with them, are

replaced by decentralised multi governance structures

 entrepreneurial local leadership and public-private co-operation has been


 fragmentation stimulated the need for a new form of governance namely joint

up governance

(Darlow et al 2007, Jessop, Painter & Goodwin, Brenner & Theodore cited in

Geddes 2006, Hall & Hubbard 1998)


As Geddes (2006) argues that shift to governance is an interface to soften the

negative effects of neoliberal policies on the urban space as well as facilitating

its competitive edge in the contemporary competitive economic environment

therefore it is necessary to see local governance from both the new institutional

perspective and perspective of political economy of neoliberalism in order to

precisely grasp the power and limitations of local governance. UK Government

explains its vision about local governance as a ―revitalised system of local

authorities working with partners from every sector. Together they will develop

better public services built around the communities, families and individuals who

use them. We want people to take an active part in the democratic life of their

place and to be part of how it improves.‖ (Communities 2008)

Contemporary public policy literature has been focused on the merits of

governance. What is governance? IDEA (2006), a UK institution working on

improvement of local governments, explains it as structuring basing on strong

relationships between individuals and organisations, trust and accountability.

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Why is it so important? Lebel et al (2006) and Rhodes (1996) argues that ‗good‘

governance facilitates the multi actor social formation where ―activities are

backed by shared goals‖ not by ―any formal authority‖; creates self organised

and self responsible societies which is fuelled by the autonomy given implying

not only freedom but also responsibility; creates effective climate for

interdependencies of the actors – or networks - that are genuinely formed to

achieve a particular objective or to sort out a particular need /problem;

produces trust & cooperation among actors stemming from this interdependency

condition. Governance steers the system not rows it; increases effectiveness

and efficiency, empowers citizens, turns them into shareholders, provides

accountability; increase the adaptive capacity of public against risks and benefits

(Lebel et al. 2006, Rhodes 1996).

Separation of steering and rowing has strategic importance in that particular

point where the national economies have been transforming and welfare state

has been shrinking. Osborne and Gaebler (cited in Yamamoto 2007) explain this

need of strategic action as ―Steering requires people who see the entire universe

of issues and possibilities and can balance competing demands for resources.

Rowing requires people who focus intently on one mission and perform it well.

Steering organizations need to find the best methods to achieve their goals.

Rowing organizations tend to defend „their‟ methods at all costs … This leaves

government operating basically as a skilful buyer, leveraging the various

producers in ways that will accomplish its policy objectives‟‟.

Drawing on these debates, ‗local governance‘ has been popularly is badged with

the local partnership and community discourse of Third Way politics. Multi-

organisational and community-based partnerships have become dominant social

inclusion and exclusion methodologies, particularly in promoting urban

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regeneration and more ‗joined-up‘ strategies to address cross-cutting

community issues (Atkinson, Lowndes & Skelcher cited in Reddel 2004).

Such partnerships, as enacted in urban regeneration programs, local action

zones and regional development initiatives, reflect a confusing mix of principles.

Lowndes and Skelcher (cited in Reddel 2004) argue that ‗partnership‘ should be

seen as an organisational form that can operate across different modes of

governance based on markets, hierarchies or networks. Danger of misfocusing,

therefore, should be carefully considered for the partnerships that are

contructed without a systemic analysis of basic governance modes and

outcomes. (Reddel 2004)


Public administration literature has been discussing new forms of governing

structures. The local governance discussions, in that context, varying from new

institutionalism to regime theory presents diverse governing structures and

partnerships. Below section summarizes the contemporary approaches to outline

the key issues which have been observed, analysed and emphasized in

theoretical course.

Regime Theory assumes that urban governance emerges in the form of

informal governing alliances among the prominent figures of community such as

private sector, community leaders and government officials to complete tasks

which is called social production of power (DiGaetano & Lawless 1999).

DiGaetano & Lawless (1999) diversify the regime theory according to different

governing structures; clientelistic, corporatist, managerial and pluralistic. Each

has different modes of state-society relations and governing logic. Partners are

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in a reciprocally benefiting relationship in a clientelistic, favouritistic mode while

civic leaders are the core of the negotiations in the corporatist mode (DiGaetano

& Lawless 1999). In managerial mode, state is the key decision maker having

bureaucratic base relationships with non-governmental actors while in the form

of pluralist structure, state is merely a broker balancing the private interest in

the urban space (DiGaetano & Lawless 1999). New institutionalism recognizes

that institutions operate in an environment consisting of other institutions, called

the institutional environment and in order to survive, institutions need to

establish legitimacy within the world of institutions. Informal conventions as well

as formal structures and rules, the role of values and power relations or

structures and, importantly, the interactions between individuals and institutions

are component of contemporary new institutionalist approach. Concept of „the

strength of weak ties‟ is critical in understanding the nature and form of new

inter-organisational partnerships and networks involving often dispersed groups

and individuals. These discursive flows are seen as opening up previously closed

networks or cliques and facilitating improved information flows which promote

greater participation and engagement between policy actors across

organisational fields (Geddes 2006). New Public Management (NPM )

approach is the broad concept intended to reflect the trend of public

management reform and public sector reform since the 80s coming through the

present in the late 2000s (Yamamoto 2007). It assumes that a system must be

managed and must manage for itself but also it must be let the management by

a network of interdependent components concerned organisations and sectors

(Yamamoto 2007). Yamamoto (2007) argues that counterpart of this approach

in public management is the multilevel governance by PPPs (public private

partnerships) schemes. NPM focuses on the interaction, cooperation, and

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collaboration of the trilogy of governments, markets and citizens (Yamamoto


Network theorists such as Rhodes and Marsh and Smith argue for a

differentiated analysis based on relative power, structure and resource exchange

within and between networks. Five ideal types of policy network have been

described: tightly integrated policy communities, professional, inter-

governmental, producer and loosely integrated issue based networks (Geddes et

al 2007)


The ‗partnership‘ discourse has become the key governance principle in the

United Kingdom due to the challenges of (1) building authoritative democratic

state capacity, in the face of public sector reforms based on a „recipe‟ of

competition and neo-liberalism, (2) citizen disengagement, and a „retreat from

the state‟ (Geddes 2006). Painter and Goodwin (cited in Geddes 2006)

emphasize entrepreneurial local leadership and public-private cooperation as

one of the key elements of local restructuring. Targeted at areas of high

deprivation, the idea that problems that are connected to social exclusion

require joined-up solutions has contributed to the value placed on partnership

(Ashtana et al 2002). Geddes (2006) argues that partnership at local levels will

create more efficient, inclusive and pluralist local governance, bringing together

key organizations and actors (from the three spheres of state, market and civil

society) to identify communities‘ top priorities and needs, and work with local

people to provide them and partnership working is a the way of achieving

effective outcomes, and solutions to so-called ‗wicked issues‘, by building trust,

sharing knowledge and resources, and working collaboratively across


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All local partnership strategies almost have the similar aims and characteristics:

Provision of extra resources; narrowing the gap between the most deprived

areas and the rest of the country putting community as the most important

stakeholder; working in partnerships which best reflect the local needs and

priorities. (FoE 2005)


Commitment to partnership is one of the key principles underlying New Labour‘s

modernization of local government. The partnership models such as Local

Strategic Partnerships (LSPs) and New Deal for Communities (NDCs) are

important new elements in the new institutional framework of local governance

(Geddes 2006). Establishment of partnerships aims to mainstream or

institutionalize networks so that relationships continue irrespective of individuals

and that the values and interests of different stakeholders are represented in a

statutory decision making processes. (Ashtana et al 2002). Here below are some

of those partnership models that are operating in the existing local governance

process particularly focusing on the models which are targeting community

involvement, service providers collaboration and referring social issues such as

poverty, employment, health, education rather then business.

Local Action Zones

3 forms of action zones are established; Employment Zones targeting the

unemployment in areas with high concentration; Education Zones (EAZs)

covering clusters of certain number of schools with low success levels in socially

disadvantaged areas; Health Action Zones (HAZs) targeting the deprived

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neighbourhoods with inequalities in terms of health issues such as rate of illness

and accessibility to health services (Painter & Clarence 2001).

Actions zones are, significantly, mostly concentrated in urban areas and based

on partnership approach aiming the joint agency working to break down

established bureaucratic organisational barriers and to promote more integrated

responses to public policy problems (Painter & Clarence 2001). The ethos of

multi-agency working central to the action zone initiatives provides a direct link

to the notion of „joined-up government‟ and New Labour‟s broader

„modernisation‟ programme of which this forms part (Painter & Clarence 2001).

Painter and Clarence (2001) argue that top-nature of the initiatives effect the

nature of the partnership and constraints the localities‘ ability to move. Central

government is far from being flexible and, enabling as well as oriented to short

term outcome which in return affect the sustainability of the action.

Local Area Agreements (LAAs)

LAAs are described as follows on Communities link: “LAAs set out the priorities

for a local area agreed between central government and a local area (the local

authority and Local Strategic Partnership) and other key partners at the local

level. LAAs simplify some central funding, help join up public services more

effectively and allow greater flexibility for local solutions to local

circumstances. Through these means, LAAs are helping to devolve decision

making, move away from a 'Whitehall knows best' philosophy and reduce


LAAs require form of joined up governance and collective delivery which all

public service providers of this particular locality cooperates (IDEA 2006). LAAs‘

main objective is to present the tools for the key partners in a locality for

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sharing priorities, planning the businesses, and making decisions of resources

allocations with reference to a agreed strategy and collectively accountable

(IDEA 2006). However there are some issues which should be taken up and that

the local partnership system needs new organisational transformation such as;

Rationalising and reducing the partnership; it is found that present partnerships

are formed due to central government requirements and serving the need of

particular client groups

Clearer definition of purpose and scope of partnership; partnerships are mostly

effective in terms of information sharing however not as effective as them in

terms of service delivery

The research literature identifies major limitations to local partnerships.

Fundamental to neoliberal politics is a reduction of state power and a shift of

policy responsibilities and risk to under-resourced local communities (Reddel


Local Strategic Partnership (LSPs)

LSP is a body which brings together at a local level the different parts of the

public sector as well as the private, business, community and voluntary sectors

so that different initiatives and services support each other and work together.

LSPs are non- statutory, and largely non-executive organizations, and the

intention is that they operate at a level which enables strategic decisions to be

taken yet is close enough to the grassroots to allow direct community

engagement. (Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions cited

in Geddes 2006)

What is the scope of LSPs?

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 Improvement of the economic, environmental, and social well-being of each

area, and contribute to the achievement of sustainable development across the


 Narrowing of the gap between the most deprived neighbourhoods and the rest

of the country, Effective neighbourhood renewal is seen to depend on services

working together which local people, business and the voluntary sector all

need to be able to contribute to planning and delivering.

 Local Public Service Agreements (LPSAs) and Local Area Agreements (LAAs)

are being instituted between central and local government to tackle key

national and local priorities (on health, education, employment, crime, and

housing), with agreed flexibilities, pump-priming and financial rewards if

improvements are delivered. Those agreements are executed through the


 LSPs are targeting the problem of confusing production processes of

partnership, plans and initiatives at the local level, and of duplication and

unnecessary bureaucracy. In short they aim to simplify the action for partners

to get involved. (Geddes 2006)

 In areas with district and county LSPs, there is the additional challenge of

ensuring that local needs and views are adequately represented in the

development and implementation phase of LAAs. (IDAE 2006)

Although LSPs aim to enable strategic decisions to be taken yet is close enough

to the grassroots to allow direct community engagement it is observed that

there is the unease among local authorities and councillors about the potential

leaching of power to LSPs, which is, in essence contributing to the fragmentation

of accountability and dilution of local democracy (Geddes 2006). Government,

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Geddes (2006) argues relying on the findings on the researches on the

effectiveness of LSPs, needs to give much greater recognition to the local

leadership role of councillors in LSPs.

NDC (New Deal for Communities)

The NDC programme is the UK government‘s flagship programme to regenerate

those neighbourhoods suffering the most disadvantages within the wider

National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal (NSNR). Each is able to draw on

funding of about £50 million over a 10-year period. Each local NDC project is

managed by a partnership board, and has developed a strategy and a delivery

plan, based around the five key outcome areas of the NSNR which are crime,

employment, education, health, housing and physical environment.

A key feature of NDC is that the emphasis is placed on utilizing the resources

and powers of the NDC to influence mainstream service provision, rather than

regarding the £50 million funding as the main means by which the

neighbourhood will be improved. Secondly, local NDC projects are intended to

be ‗community led‘ in a stronger sense than has been the case in previous

regeneration initiatives — the rhetoric from government at the launch of

NDC was of ‗communities in control‘. Even though this has since been somewhat

weakened in a way, a recent report by the National Audit Office found that the

NDC programme had taken significant steps to involve community interests

(Ryde cited in Geddes 2006).

However it attracts some critiques as well. Lawless (cited in Geddes 2006)

argues that the programme has a relatively marginal role in attacking

deprivation and highlighting the political tensions at both national and local

levels which can disrupt local projects of this nature. Through NDCs are

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particularly interesting in the extent to which they function robustly as

institutions which encourage bottom-up participation by citizens from

disadvantaged areas in the system of local governance (Geddes 2006). This

reflection above may be interpreted as fact that local governance strategies is

not necessarily strengthening this grassroots‘ capacity, rather may be causing a

dependency situation in that context.


How effective and how legitimate? Is ‗partnership working‘ delivering what cities

need? For a clear discussion it is better to begin the analysis by very briefly

discussing what cities need.

Decline of Fordist production systems transformed the urban space into a space

of conflict which Sassen (1994) calls ‗emergence of centrality and marginality‟.

Reorganisation of production has led to the reorganisation of labour market in

the form of such as growth of an informal economy, decline of unions, loss of

contractual protection and increase in part time / temporary jobs, as well as

increasing homelessness and decreasing affordability of people, new

intra/interurban inequalities (polarisation). Parallel to the transformation of

economic sectors, context of public administration has been profoundly

restructured as well. Classical local government approach has been replaced by

local governance principles. This new public administration understanding

favours individual over state; the interconnection among shareholders relying on

volunteer-based cooperation over hierarchic relations; negotiation, democratic

participation, project democracy over imposition; facilitator, enabler local

government over applicator one; systems caring diversity and local value over

standardising systems; accountable over conservative (Goymen 2004).

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Moving from the fact stated above, the points that are associated to the

effectiveness and legitimacy of the partnership working as a local governance

strategy are perceived and analysed relying on the conclusion which a diverse

literature has reached as follow:

 Assumption of that partnership working is good because they contribute to

participation is not always true. Reddel (2004) argues that regional, national,

global influences are always available on local level and managerial

government is not always capable of overcoming all challenges so full

participation is highly assertive without considering external forces.

 Partners don‘t always have overlaying responsibility boundaries due to

geographical configuration which causes incompatibility in terms of

accountability and allocation of funds (Darlow et al 2007)

 Partners sometimes have competing agendas. (Darlow et al 2007)

 Workload generated by partnership protocols is taken as an extra to daily

workload by partners. Besides, partners may avoid allocate the necessary

resources to the action. (Darlow et al 2007)

 Partners are supposed to report to different central government departments

and centrally imposed targets (Darlow et al 2007)

 the ‗sense of disappointment of local residents

as their plans of a better future are submerged

under slow inevitable institutional processes‘ or

community activists becoming part of the

partnership, rather than the partnership

becoming part of the community namely the

bureaucratic weight under which resident

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activists have to struggle is hard to achieve (Wainwright cited in Geddes


 Business decisions are one of the most important factors which will determine

the success or failure of local strategies. Business participation is therefore

encouraged by the perceptions of business organizations and individual

businesses about the possible benefits (availability of direct business

opportunities (in service provision for example) or better knowledge of the

local business environment) and the opportunity costs of involvement through

local engagement and networking. In general, this has meant so far that

partnerships have found it difficult to secure business involvement. National

reporting about partnership such as the NAO audit found that partnerships are

having particular difficulties in engaging business and connecting residents to

the local labour market (Geddes 2006).

 For neighbourhood-based local community and voluntary sector actors, the

apparent opportunities to exercise real

influence partnerships over public service

provision appear very considerable, and

many local activists seem prepared to

make huge personal commitments to

partnerships to take hold of them

(Geddes 2006).

 The meta-governance is a fact of success

and effectiveness of local partnerships.

Central government is usually the major

constraint against the success and

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effectiveness of local partnerships. The effectiveness partnerships at the local

level depends heavily on practices at national — and regional — levels of

government, and government has adopted a range of strategies and

interventions, to control and regulate the new local institutions they have set

up (Geddes 2006) This is not only a question of the dominance of national over

local priorities in a period when achieving public service delivery outcomes are

a major government priority. It is also that, in this period of intensive

restructuring and change, the invention and application of new institutional

norms, incentives and sanctions has been led from the centre not from the

local level. Thus LSPs operate within a centrally driven regime, especially in

those areas eligible for NRF funding, where they must be assessed annually by

government regional offices, according to a set of rules drawn up by the NRU

(Geddes 2006). The move to a stronger local government may be perceived as

a sign of significant change. However, current developments more reflect the

priorities of central government agenda and tend to undermine the expressed

objective of empowering local communities. Furbey (1999) argues that whilst

bids do reflect local issues, local priorities are tested against the priorities of

central government in order to comply with real or perceived government

requirements. Local governance strategies are regularly monitored and tightly

controlled by performance management systems instituted by central

government and carried through by regional government offices. Thus, on the

one hand, those partnerships represent an attempt to open up local

governance to a wider range of local interests and better reflect local priorities

and needs; but on the other hand they are both subject to central government

monitoring and performance management arrangements which judge them „on

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their ability to match targets and objectives imposed from above‟ (Geddes


 As long as the local governance strategies depend on central government

budget, they are subject to

domination and control of it due

to accountability and

governmentality requirements

which Geddes (2006) call

performance-managed public

service agencies. Partnerships

are bounded by government‘s

success indicators and priorities

not only in budgeting but also in

objective setting. Geddes (2006)

explains the case as follows; ―Partnerships are subject to regular review,

inspection and audit. Thus LSPs operate within a centrally driven regime,

especially in those areas eligible for Neighbourhood Renewal Funding, where

they must be assessed annually by government regional offices, according to a

set of rules drawn up by the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit”

 Time-limited initiatives, framed by strong bidding guidelines and with the

requirement to supply increasingly strong and comprehensive measures of

project ‗inputs‘ and ‗outputs‘ are more of an outcome of more mechanistic

approaches (Furbey 1999). Therefore partnerships are likely to turn into a

mode of checklist rather than targeting more practical issues which soft project

as such require.

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 Local authorities have a leading role which both a facilitator and a barrier

aspect. They are supposed to be facilitator because the process needs a single

actor to lead and may likely to turn into a function of barrier because

perception of domination may cause lack of ownership among other parties.

(Darlow et al 2007)

 Local politics has bad reputation of the limited and even declining local political

participation, or the quality of local elected or the perception problem of lack of

transparency and accountability of local politics. Local governance strategies

appear to offer involvement of a wider range of interests in local policy

making, and a framework within which trust can be developed and the

perspectives of different interests identified and understood (Geddes 2006)

 Local partnerships should support representative democracy, and should form

the platform for negotiation of different ideas, views which Geddes (2006) calls

as shift from antagonistic to agonistic mode.

 Perception of partnerships has been improved as a result of community

strategy process. Data sharing and joint target settings are the steps that

partnerships work the best. Community strategies drive partners to sign up to

a single document hence resulted in the development of a ‗common brand and

identity‘ for that particular locality (Darlow et al 2007). However involvement

of all parties has critical role in success.

 Partnerships lead to a better understanding of local needs (Darlow et al 2007)

 Moving from the experience of LSPs, it is argued that authorities have found

that there is a need for a central body which is responsible for practical

spending decisions the allocation and/or alignment of funds (IDEA 2006). This

accountable body comprises senior members and elected officials of the key

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agencies in a locality. Constituent LSPs remain in place under the revised

arrangements and retain their visioning and co-ordinating role, overseeing

countywide strategic issues to realise the Community Strategy objectives

(IDEA 2006)


The paper firstly analysed the current public administration realm and

contemporary economic and institutional transformation that have been

embodied in urban space as local governance. It, then, focused particularly on

the issue of partnership working as a local governance strategy. Practises have

been examined, and factors of success and failure have been analysed.

In conclusion, the paper argues that inputs and processes which define success

of partnership working in the urban space have very relative and intangible

aspects. Balance between despotism and leadership, bureaucracy and

informality leading local initiatives, practicality and accountability stimulates the

question of whether a genuine partnership can be externally constructed,

whether the principles of ‗good ‘partnership can be written down, whether

partnership can be free from special / conditional attributes to be mainstreamed.

Attempts of UK government in the process of modernisation of local authorities

have been very much focusing on empowerment of local agencies and

communities in goal setting and service delivery through the promotion

partnerships via various structures such as LAAs, LSPs, NDCs. Top-down nature

of attempt negatively effects its efficiency and legitimacy. Accountability is a

must in public administration and it is possible to monitor accountability through

performance criteria may seem as the most practical and just way. A

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partnership approach shaped around joint strategy setting and service provision

should be completed with the joint action of indicator setting as well. Individuals

and communities who are given the right and initiative to dream about their

future and to realise it must have the right to evaluate it as well.

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