Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies

What’s happening to the local state in England?

What’s happening to the local state in England? Local government, financialisation, and regulation

Date: 1000-1700, Friday 24 June 2022

Venue: Graham Wallas Room (OLD 5.25), Old Building, London School of Economics (LSE)

Workshop Organisers:

Frances Brill (University of Cambridge) fnb22@cam.ac.uk

Andy Pike (Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies (CURDS), Newcastle University) andy.pike@ncl.ac.uk

Callum Ward (LSE) C.Ward5@lse.ac.uk



Local government and the wider local state in England have experienced dramatic change in the last decade. This period has echoed local government’s unsettled history within the U.K. state and previous experiences of austerity and restructuring in the 1980s. A decade of turbulence since 2010 has been marked by unprecedented expenditure reductions, rising demand for local services, regulatory change, and the national government’s ambition for local financial ‘self-sufficiency’, innovation, and reduced dependence upon central grants.

Fiscal stress has intensified pressures on local government actors to close funding gaps and balance budgets by making savings and finding new sources of income, drawing them into new strategies, arrangements, and instruments. Worlds of municipal and public finance are intersecting with those of commercial and private finance. Financial sustainability and resilience are in question as numerous local governments are deemed ‘at risk’ or on the brink of financial failure. The unfolding impacts of Brexit and the pandemic are further complicating the situation.

Local government in England faces an uncertain future as it enters a period of post-Brexit and post-pandemic recovery. Growing challenges are presented by rising social and geographical inequalities, climate change, demographic shifts, technological transitions. A previously benign macroeconomic situation is shifting in the direction of rising inflation and interest rates and tightening public finances.

National government appears supportive yet unclear about local governments’ roles in the policy agendas of ‘levelling up’, Net Zero Carbon, Growth Plan, ‘Build Back Better’, and health and social care reform. PWLB lending terms and investment guidance have been revised and tightened. Sector specific issues such as the Fair Funding Review, revaluations of Council Tax and Business rates, and new fiscal tools remain deferred. This period of change and uncertainty raises fundamental questions about what local government is for and how it can be funded and financed.

Aim and objectives

The aim of the workshop is to bring together and into dialogue researchers and practitioners working on different aspects of the local state and local government amidst financialisation and regulatory change in England from multiple perspectives.

The objectives of the workshop are threefold:

i) To take stock and reflect upon current research
ii) To identify and articulate the key issues and questions facing researchers and practitioners working in this field
iii) To flesh out the priorities and directions of future research and policy agendas in this area.



10:00 Arrival, registration and refreshments

10:30 Welcome, introduction, and aims of the workshop
(Frances Brill, Andy Pike and Callum Ward)

10:45-12:15 – Session 1: Where are we at?
(Chair: Frances Brill)

Provocations/summaries (~10 mins each)


Speakers and themes:

Mia Gray (Cambridge) Austerity, debt and the local state

Arianna Giovannini (De Montford) Local governance and politics

Jess Ferm (UCL) What is governed in cities?

Hulya Dagdeviren (Hertfordshire) Financialisation and local government

Callum Ward (LSE) Virtual statecraft: housing targets and the governance of urban markets

Participant questions, debate, and discussion

12:15-13:00 Break and lunch

13:00-14:30 Session 2: What’s been happening?
(Chair: Callum Ward)

Provocations/summaries (~10 mins each)


Speakers and themes:

Abdool Kara (NAO) Local government finances and governance

Mark Sandford (House of Commons Library) Local government finance: government policy

Andy Pike (CURDS, Newcastle University) Financialisation and local statecraft

Kate Odgen and David Phillips (IFS) What’s happened and what’s next for English council funding?

Participant questions, debate, and discussion

14:30-15:00 Break and refreshments (for those attending in person)

15:00-16:30 Session 3: What is local government for and how can it be funded and financed?
(Chair: Andy Pike)

Provocations/summaries (~10 mins each)


Speakers and themes:

Allan Cochrane (Open University) Whatever happened to local government?

Tony Travers (LSE) UK political economy and local government funding

Rachel Bentley (CLES) Alternative agendas for local government: the case for community wealth building

Joe Penny (UCL) Local and community politics

Joe Fyans (Localis) Neo-localism and the renewal of local government

16:30 Wrap-up, thanks and next steps
(Frances Brill, Andy Pike and Callum Ward)