Third sector politics in the new local governance
This thesis explores the operation of third sector politics within the changing context of local governance. Throughout the history of urban policy the concept of community has fonned a recurrent, if fluctuating theme (Eisenschitz and Gough, 1993; Raco, 1998a). Recent literature has tended to assume the emergence of a new local governance characterised by restructured local political relations. A related strand of thinking suggests that within this new context, the community role has been elevated. The recent turn to community seems to present a vision in which public participation is something of a panacea to secure successful and lasting urban regeneration and more effective local governance. The tendency within the literature has been to focus on new institutional configurations rather than the detailed operation of the new arrangements. This thesis seeks to assess in detail how the third sector is engaging in processes of local governance and the mechanisms that support this. The research focuses on the fine-grain of spatial and institutional representation of community interests and the fonn and function of community politics. It develops this focus through a specific concern with the operation of community politics and the constitution of governance roles through two in-depth case studies conducted in the North-East. These provide contrasting examples of third sector organisation and coordination, thus highlighting the locally distinctive nature of third sector politics. The thesis concludes that attempts at specifying changing local governance and models of community engagement have tended to ignore the complexity of community politics. Therefore, it is argued that future theoretical developments need to address these complexities in order to capture any change in the fonn and nature of local political relations in general and third sector politics in particular.