The coalition government is currently enacting a range of public policy initiatives, which represent a transformation of the welfare state and a redefinition of governance in the UK through a shift towards ‘open public services.’ This includes the emergence of new providers of public services, which are not connected to traditional democratically accountable structures. This can lead to increased difficulty in identifying a responsibility within the multi-level and multi-sector arrangements. As a result, the current configuration of democratic accountability in open public services is insufficient and requires alternative approaches to bring improved policy development and implementation, and more equitable decisions. This deficit is of critical importance, both in terms of effective governance and due to concerns about democratic principles.
The project aims to solve this problem by providing a theoretical framework to adapt to ensure accountability within a context of new modes of governance through a synthesis of political economy and radical democracy. This will provide the conditions for an effective and accountable welfare state, which promotes active equality at a local level. The framework will be based upon core principles of deliberative democracy through public justification and equal participation and will also entail connectivity to democratic structures – in the process weaving together a range of critical perspectives in order to provide a substantive alternative.
The City of Manchester has been chosen as a singular case study in order to provide a necessarily in-depth investigation at a local level within a diverse society that has high levels of deprivation. The current arrangements in Manchester are audited against the framework to test the principles, and ascertain how accountability relationships exist at a local level.