This paper analyses the context and use of risk management in local authorities in England and Australia. The basic structures of risk management were found to be common across all four local authorities in both countries. However, substantial differences were found in the national context in which risk management was used. The national context in each country was compared, and a large and small local authority in each country was used for illustrative purposes. The research findings were tested against institutional, contingency, resource dependence, and political perspectives. The research finding is that each theory was necessary but not sufficient and a pluralist approach was formulated to explain the similarities and differences in risk management in local authorities across two countries.