An independent forum for academic debate on the challenges faced by contemporary society

Governing social and spatial inequalities under enduring austerity

Event details:

Keynote speakers

  • Professor Ruth Lupton (University of Manchester)
  • Professor Andrew Cumbers (University of Glasgow)
  • Professor Annette Hastings (University of Glasgow)
  • Professor Ian Cole (Sheffield Hallam University)
  • Neil Berry (Locality)
  • Gail Gibbons (Sheffield Futures)

This one-day conference explores the implications of changing forms of governance for social and spatial inequalities across the UK and beyond.

Conference Themes

There is growing recognition that the political responses to the financial crisis of 2007-08 have generated or intensified forms of governance that are becoming embedded as the ‘new normal’ in an era of entrenched austerity. A combination of cuts in state funding, public sector retrenchment, new modes of service delivery, and reform of governance structures across spatial scales are reshaping the way that social and spatial inequalities are addressed. The hollowing out of local government has been accompanied by a turn to sub-regional forms of governance (LEPs and combined authorities); growing reliance on the private and third sector to deliver services; and increasing expectation that ‘community’ can fill the void left by state withdrawal. Increasingly fractured devolution settlements in England and across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland also create conditions for policy divergence and increasing potential for differential outcomes. Taken together these changes have profound implications for the economic and social well-being of low income groups and areas.

This conference will explore these implications by interrogating key developments that include, but are not limited to: privatisation; contracting out of services; retrenchment or reconfiguration in the public sector; financialisation of public services; devolution and new forms of territorial governance; public service ‘transformation’; and a turn to community to tackle social problems. These developments have been explored in the UK and overseas through concepts such as ‘disaster capitalism’ (Klein, 2008), ‘austerity urbanism’ (Peck, 2012) and ‘risk-shifting’ that emphasise that the fallout of the financial crisis has been ‘downloaded’ onto social and political actors at increasingly localised scales.

These trends provide an opportunity to critically examine the novelty, permanence and effectiveness of these changing forms of governance as well as the outcomes for marginalised groups and places. We are particularly interested to explore how these changes play out across policy domains as well as the implications within discrete policy areas (welfare, employment, housing, regeneration/economic development, health and education etc). We are also seeking to make comparative insights into experiences and developments outside the UK.

Academics, researchers, students, policymakers and practitioners are invited to interrogate the implications of these trends for addressing social and spatial inequalities. Policy-relevant and empirically or theoretically-informed papers will be presented on themes including (but not limited to):

  • Privatisation, contracting out and ‘corporate welfare’
  • The role of the public, private and third sector in the ‘mixed economy’ of welfare
  • Financialisation of public service delivery
  • New models of service delivery for ‘complex’ groups (e.g. whole household approaches, multi-agency working)
  • Devolution, new forms of territorial governance and the retrenchment of local government
  • The turn to ‘community’ in service delivery
  • Lived experiences of, and responses to, new forms of governance
  • Working conditions in organisations delivering services
  • Theoretical understandings of governance under permanent austerity

Presentations: download here

Delegate fees

The event is part funded by the Centre for Regional, Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University. A fee of £35 will be payable by all delegates including presenters to cover the remaining running costs of the conference. A small number of bursaries will be available to cover the fee for attendees who do not have institutional support.  To book a place Click here to book your place.

Any queries about the event can be sent to Emma Smith

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Event start date: 15th Sep 2016
Event closing date: 15th Sep 2016


Location: Sheffield City Hall


£ 35.00

For more information

Contact: Emma Smith