Coalitions, Institutional Design Choices and Consequences
Edited by Dave Huitema and Sander Meijerink
Chapter 5: Partnering for success in England: the Westcountry Rivers Trust
An official government document from the United Kingdom (UK) proclaims that: A vibrant participatory democracy should strengthen our representative democracy. The third sector – through charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises – has much to offer from its traditions of purposeful altruism and selfless volunteering. Equally, we believe that political activity is a worthwhile and essential part of British life, and we want to restore people’s faith in politics. (Department of Communities and Local Government 2008) Changes in strategic political thinking in the UK have consequently witnessed official government policy moving towards the engagement of non-statutory non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in environmental management. Although these changes predate the general election of May 2010, that replaced the Labour government of Gordon Brown, they have become more salient under the Coalition led by David Cameron (Conservative) and Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrat). Under the Prime Minister’s ‘Big Society’ agenda in particular, the perceived ‘virtues’ of the voluntary (or third) sector include direct and positive citizen participation, reducing ties with bureaucratic regulation and promoting more cost-effective, local service delivery. While these priorities may clearly be viewed as part of a ‘neoliberal agenda’ the long-standing role of voluntary action in the UK (Cook and Inman 2012) has shown it to be both effective and trusted when working with all kinds of economic actors.
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