Reviving local democracy offers a vivid and persuasive critical examination of New Labour's programme for the modernisation of local government, providing a balanced view of the democracy and participation debate. Since 1997, the Blair government has sought to mobilise popular participation through local referenda, new political structures, electoral reform, and the creation of powerful new elected mayors. Through these mechanisms it is hoped that the lack of public interest and persistently low election turnouts will be overcome.
The book draws on a wide range of new survey data to relate the crisis of local politics and governance to wider changes in the political culture. The author goes on to evaluate the government's proposals to reverse decline, asking whether this programme of reform is likely to succeed. With the aid of a series of recent surveys of both public and councillor opinion, and the successful blending of historical and empirical analysis, she offers an assessment of the realities which the democratic renewal project will have to confront in its implementation.
The book is topical and timely, and highly accessible, and will appeal to students, those involved in local government, and anyone concerned to see local government become more representative, responsive, and open to popular participation.
New times for local democracy; Local democracy and after; The failed promise of reform; Civic-minded Britain?; The reluctant voter; The third way and democratic reform; The modernising agenda: enhancing participation; The modernising agenda: new forms of political leadership; Prospects for a new politics.
"... a very useful account of the decline in interest in local politics." Journal of Social Policy
"... an admirably clear description of the tortuous development of local democracy - well worth recommending to undergraduates studying Politics or Social Policy " Critical Social Policy
"Nirmala Rao has produced an important and balanced assessment of the current state of local democracy in Britain today and of New Labour's proposals for change. Her book is essential reading for all those interested in local democracy and how far changes designed to improve local democratic performance are likely to succeed." Michael Goldsmith