Local government decentralisation : a study of institutional change
The thesis analyses local government decentralisation as a process of institutional change. It is based on a case study of decentralisation in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets (1986-1990). Drawing on 'new institutionalist' theory, the thesis develops a new approach to understanding local government decentralisation. It provides analternative to accounts which concentrate on identifying the 'pros and cons' of decentralisation. It examines the capacity of decentralisation to secure change in the underlying institutional framework of local governance. The thesis develops a conceptual framework depicting four stages of an institutional lifecycle: creation, recognition, maintenance and collapse. The framework maps the interaction of formal and informal institutional rules, and the relative significance of strategic action and norm-governed behaviour in institutional change. The conceptual framework is used to analyse local government decentralisation in Tower Hamlets. The thesis shows that decentralisation arose out of the collapse of old institutional rules, under the influence of dominant informal institutions in the locality. It explores how, through strategic action and the 'embedding' of new norms of behaviour, a new institutional framework was established through decentralisation. It also considers the ambiguous and contested nature of institutional change; in maintaining an institutional framework over time, rules are reinterpreted and modified. The thesis makes a conceptual and empirical contribution to understanding institutional change in general, and local government decentralisation in particular.