Virtual issue on Central-local relations

Image credit: Evelyn Sturdy at Unsplash

Sarah Brown
Journal Manager, Policy & Politics

In our second virtual issue of 2021, we focus on central-local relations and feature some of the latest research on that topic from a range of different perspectives and three quite different political systems. Against a backdrop of austerity coupled with an imminent global recession resulting from the pandemic, the politics of central-local relations and their impact on policy are, we believe, even more topical than ever. So we hope that you enjoy this short collection featuring some of our most recent scholarship on this theme.

Our first article on the limits of localism: a decade of disaster on homelessness in England by Suzanne Fitzpatrick, Hal Pawson and Beth Watts, offers a controversial analysis which challenges the view that allowing local governments the freedom to tailor policy to their local context produces better policy outcomes.  The authors argue that localism can disadvantage socially marginalised groups and that it has contributed directly to a sharp increase in homelessness in England over the last ten years. In a direct challenge to the prevailing academic view that favours localism over top-down decision making, the authors propose that localism cannot be assumed to be a progressive model, particularly when public finances are under pressure and local politicians are forced to make tough choices between local services.

Our second article, entitled Rescaling education policy: Central–local relations and the politics of scale in England and Sweden, also highlights how the effects of localism are contingent on context.  Ingela K. Naumann and Colin Crouch compare central-local relations in the cases of education policy in England and Sweden. Their analysis shows how, although the governments of both countries have advocated choice, competition and participation in compulsory education, recent reforms have led to the centralisation of school governance in England but decentralisation in Sweden. The comparison of these two cases reveals that different conceptions of central–local relations by British and Swedish governments have led to contrasting strategies to create legitimacy for public policy reform.

Our third and final article, Mega-events and regional identities: the 2010 Asian Games language controversy, considers how mega-events can bring increased recognition for regional identities but may also act as important sites for contestation of these identities. In their analysis of the Cantonese language controversy in the run up to the Guangzhou Asian games, Zhonghua Gu, Bart Wissink and Yuan Hu argue that the struggle for recognition of the language played an important role in the articulation of a Cantonese regional identity. Although the existing literature on mega-events explores their potential to achieve redistribution, their impact on regional identity claims is under-researched. This article ably helps to fill that gap.

We hope you enjoyed reading this collection. Download the original research articles now while they are free to access!

All the articles featured in this virtual collection are listed below and are either Open Access or free to download until 9 July 2021:

The limits of localism: a decade of disaster on homelessness in England [Open Access]
Suzanne Fitzpatrick, Hal Pawson and Beth Watts

Rescaling education policy: central‐local relations and the politics of scale in England and Sweden
Ingela K.  Naumann and Colin Crouch

Mega-events and regional identities: the 2010 Asian Games language controversy
Zhonghua Gu,  Bart Wissink and Yuan Hu

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