Discretion As Blame Avoidance: Passing the Buck to Local Authorities in ‘Welfare Reform’

Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, 2019

27 Pages Posted: 25 May 2019

Date Written: April 25, 2019

Abstract

This paper argues that central governments can avoid blame for cuts to social security by transferring discretionary powers to local authorities. When making reductions to entitlements, conferring discretion avoids delineating the boundary of who is affected, allowing: for conflicts at the heart of policy formation to be deliberately fudged; decisions to be shielded from the gaze of the public and the courts; and responsibility for the impact of budget reductions to be externalised. Using three ‘welfare reforms’ in the UK as examples – the council tax reduction scheme, discretionary housing payments, and local welfare assistance schemes – four ‘blame avoidance’ functions of conferring discretion are proposed.

Suggested Citation

Meers, Jed, Discretion As Blame Avoidance: Passing the Buck to Local Authorities in ‘Welfare Reform’ (April 25, 2019). Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, 2019, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3378134

Jed Meers (Contact Author)

University of York ( email )

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