Lever, John (2008) Governance, Partnerships and the Mainstreaming of Community Safety. Doctoral thesis, University of the West of England.

This thesis examines the emergence, use and future potential of community based partnership working in the field of community safety. Based on a case study of partnership working in the Bristol in South West England, it examines the ongoing process of institutional change through which partnership working and community safety have become central features of UK public policy. Drawing attention to the ways in which community groups and organisations are being drawn into the policy-making process in order to find solutions to the problems excluded communities face, it argues that community safety has become a central feature of New Labour’s wider attempt to reconfigure the state apparatus in its own terms. Highlighting the ways in which managerial pressures emerging from the Government’s wider governance agenda compel mainstream agencies to change the ways they operate in order to improve the provision of public services, the thesis highlights the emergence of an approach to community safety that prioritises short-term reductions in crime and disorder over and above long-term community concerns.

This approach is seen to be problematical for a number of reasons and it is argued that partnerships will only be successful in the long-term if they direct resources towards initiatives that allow mainstream agencies and community groups to articulate their experiences and expectations of each other in an open and inclusive way. Building on the governmentality account of developments in governance, it makes use of insights from the work of Norbert Elias and argues that figurational sociology provides compelling insights into the nature of contemporary change processes. The thesis leans strongly towards theory and places partnership working in a long term socio-historical perspective that illustrates the extent to which, how, and why mainstream resources are being realigned through partnership working. Although it draws attention to the current limitations of community based partnership working under New Labour, the thesis concludes that the community governance model is laying the institutional foundations on which a more civilised approach to community safety may one day stand.

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