The making of spending cuts in local government : a case study of four English local authorities, 1984/85
The thesis focuses on the making of spending cuts in local government in the mid-1980s. It examines how four English local authorities - Bedfordshire County Council, Kent County Council, Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council, and Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council - made spending cuts in the financial year, 1984/85. The research is based on a comprehensive set of interviews of the significant actors in each of the four local authorities and an examination of the relevant documents produced by the local authorities, plus an extensive literature survey. After exploring the significant methodological problems in defining and measuring local authority spending, the thesis examines to what extent the four local authorities cut their spending, why they curbed their spending, and how they made spending cuts. Furthermore, it looks at specific case studies where local authorities cut their spending, including, for example, decisions to contract-out school cleaning, to terminate grant funding of sheltered housing, and to work with a voluntary organisation in providing day care for the elderly. The thesis outlines the major findings of the research, compares the research findings with those of other research projects, and constructs a theory of cutback management in local government. This theory challenges many of the conventional wisdoms surrounding cutback management. Both the dominant rationalist and incremental models of cutback management are explored and tested in light of the research evidence. The thesis finds that both models provide only limited explanations of cutback management in local government. As a result of their theoretical shortcomings a refined model is formulated, which provides a far more plausible basis upon which to understand cutback management in local government. The thesis offers both new empirical and theoretical analysis of the making of spending cuts in local government.