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Abstract:

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SERC/Urban and Spatial Programme Policy Paper
Local Authorities and the Downturn: A Review of Issues, Experience and Options
Ian Gordon, Tony Travers and Christine Whitehead June 2009
Paper No' SERCPP003:
Full Paper (pdf)

This report considers the potential/appropriate role for local authorities (LAs) in relation to the downturn phase of the current recession. It focuses on the most valuable functions which they can fulfil in this context, and takes a cautious view about the potential for extending any boost to local authority activity beyond this phase. It offers a rapid survey of roles, opportunities and constraints, drawing both on general principles (grounded in economic analysis) and an appreciation of practical experience. It proceeds from a brief review/comparison of the experience of the last two recessions, via a typology of potentially relevant LA roles in the present one, to a set of general issues that need to be addressed in considering what they should/could appropriately do in this situation. It then focuses on two more specific issues. The first is the significance of financial and other constraints for what LAs are likely/able to do. The second addresses LAs’ role in the field of housing market/financial issues, which is identified as the one where their contribution can be most crucial.