This paper asks two questions: first, how did the balance of decision-making between central and local government in welfare policy in England change between 2010 and 2015? Second, to what extent has that led to divergence in the extent and manner of such provision? It finds significant areas of policy where local flexibility has been increased (such as council tax benefit, crisis loans, and funding for specialist housing), either through a change in the tier of government responsible, or ‘unringfencing’ of grants allowing local authorities greater discretion in whether to deliver particular services, although in other important areas decisions on welfare remain firmly centralized. It also concludes that in areas where responsibility has been localized, divergence has been immediate and substantial. Localization may well reduce entitlements where local authorities enjoy a financial reward for so doing and political costs are low.
Bibliographical noteThis is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in Regional & Federal Studies on 6/6/2018, available online at: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/13597566.2018.1480479