The Concept of an ‘Enabling’ Local Authority

“Concepts of enabling show how conventional local government can create innovative local governance.”

Six distinct though related strands of ‘enabling’ as applied to the ability of local governments to engage in innovative methods of service delivery are distinguished. The practice of ‘enabling’ is analysed to identify possible advantages, obstacles, and disadvantages. Contracting can secure economies and strengthen the local economy but can cause problems of accountability. Consumerism may extend service-user choice but can be tokenistic for dependent clients and claimants.

Community planning forces elected representatives to consider the impact on the community of the actions of all local decisionmakers but can be negated by central controls. Leadership can mobilise community resources from the commercial and not-for-profit sectors but is incompatible with the proliferation of nonaccountable agencies. Self-help can improve service responsiveness but is not necessarily democratically organised or empowering. Participation can empower but its commonest forms are weak.

Published in Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy | Brian Smith | 2000,,