Leeds Beckett University
MakingLocalismAReality-SADLER.pdf (9.88 MB)

Making localism a reality : reshaping public service roles and developing active citizenship

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posted on 2022-11-14, 14:02 authored by Antony Sadler

This thesis explores the changing role of public services in supporting active citizenship in the development of communities within an area of the north of England. The study was undertaken in the context of the Government’s ‘localism’ and ‘austerity’ agendas. 

Literature was examined against themes of conceptualising, enabling and contextualising active citizenship. A conceptual framework was used associated with the rights and duties of citizenship. 

Elements of a Grounded theory methodology provided an iterative approach to knowledge development with an action research method. Case studies of local groups involved focus groups and interviews with four community groups, Elected Members and public agencies. The data was analysed using Attride-Stirling’s (2001) thematic network approach.

A range of tensions were revealed associated with interface between citizens, civil society and local authorities. Community spirit and social cohesion were seen to be weakening because of changing populations; ‘looser’ communities and historical adversity with need for a ‘transformation of civil society’. Citizen motivation for active citizenship is restrained by austerity with tensions around power imbalance between communities and the State. Integrated community leadership is required involving Elected Members although tensions exist because of political association and community group independence. ‘Rules in use’ enable citizens to engage with politics and are important in building confidence. Volunteering is significant with a need to facilitate local support and undertake further research around young people. Implications of findings are that active citizenship should be strategic priority and community resources better connected. 

Knowledge has been advanced through better understanding from stakeholders and adapting a framework to measure local active citizenship. Findings have informed a ‘People with Public Service’ framework for local authorities to support active citizenship. The conclusions provide a better understanding of the complexity and tensions with the need to ‘reset’ the social contract between the community and the State.


Qualification name

  • PhD


South, jane ; Barnett, Neil

Awarding Institution

Leeds Beckett University

Completion Date


Qualification level

  • Doctoral


  • eng


Leeds Beckett University

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