The impact of Estate Action on developments in council housing, management and effectiveness
Housing in Britain, and public housing in particular, has undergone a decade of turbulent flux. This thesis analyses the developments which have resulted in a changed emphasis and attitude towards council housing, investment patterns and systems, management organisations and forms of ownership. These changes mean that local housing authorities must adapt their policies and seize the new opportunities which present themselves. The discussion in chapter 2 provides the context for the main contribution of the thesis, which is an assessment of the Department of Environment's Estate Action (EA) initiative. The thesis argues that EA springs from this new housing context and, therefore, provides a useful framework with which to examine trends in English public housing, since it enables the changes and frictions between central and local government to be analysed, as well as indicating the potential consequences and outcomes of adaptation to the new housing setting. A series of issues are examined which form the focus of the empirical analysis. Particular attention is placed on the following aspects: the structure of central/local relations arising from implementing the EA initiative, the effects of EA on financial and management effectiveness and EA's housing policy consequences. Chapter 3 discusses the policy context and outlines the methodology to be employed. The main empirical analysis is presented in five chapters. In chapter 4, interviews with the EA Central team are reported as well as an analysis of documentary material on the background to EA. This discussion allows the origins and objectives of EA to be established from both the government's and the Department of Environment's viewpoints. In chapter 5, the results of a postal survey of all local authorities involved in EA are analysed in detail. This enables chapter 6 to develop a general assessment of the local authority response to the EA initiative. Chapter 7 presents the responses of EA Central and Department of Environment Regional Offices to the survey findings. Finally, chapter 8 reports on four case-studies which assess EA in the context of specific localities. The analysis attempts to establish EA's success in implementing schemes via a discussion of managerial data, tenant opinions and staff assessments. EA's wider impact on local housing authorities' policies towards public housing is also evaluated and found to be influential. Chapter 9 synthesizes the main empirical and theoretical findings and assesses the implications of the research for an understanding of the council housing system in general and EA in particular. Issues worth further investigation are also discussed.