Empowerment or Abandonment? Prospects for Neighbourhood Revitalization Under the Big Society
Public Money and Management, 32(3): 193-200
23 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2011 Last revised: 10 Apr 2012
Date Written: April 1, 2012
This paper explores the impact of recent trends towards ‘privatism’ through a study of urban and neighborhood governance in Baltimore and Bristol and considers their implications for the big society’ in the UK. It argues that the self-help ideology of the big society has been prevalent in Baltimore for many years and that Bristol too has started moving in this direction. However, the Baltimore experience highlights profound difficulties in substituting volunteering for government-led revitalization. The major charitable bodies in Baltimore operate a ‘triage’ approach, investing only in those neighborhoods deemed ‘viable’. In an era of austerity, economically ‘unviable’ neighborhoods face effective abandonment by the public, profit and non-profit sectors alike. The case of Bristol further highlights the risk to neighborhood governance infrastructure posed by the withdrawal of government programs. The paper concludes that the Baltimore experience is a warning to British policy makers, posing a major dilemma. Sustaining neighborhood revitalization efforts require the very public investment now being cut by the Coalition government. The voluntarism of the 'Big Society' is likely to be a poor substitute.
Keywords: neighbourhood, urban, governance, Baltimore, Bristol, big society
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