Exercising agency? The role of elite actors in local democracy in English local government: the local democracy maker.

  • Philip Lloyd-Williams

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The way in which employed senior elites in English local government exercise their agency in the practice of local democracy and local governance is considered in this thesis. The research posits the notion that elite Officers act as Local Democracy Makers as they draw on their own traditions and ideologies in responding to the dilemmas of changing policy and politics in the public realm. The study is located in the latter part of New Labour?s term of office and applies an interpretive and reflexive approach to three studies of the exercise of well being powers. The approach is one of applied ethnography through the examination of literature reviews, interviews and observations of decisions taken in the exercise of the powers of economic, environmental and social well-being are used to examine how and why the Local Democracy Makers make sense of their world in the way that they do. The research suggests that, despite prevailing narratives, local governance arrangements depend on a system of hierarchy, employed elites and local politics. The challenges of re-configuring local democracy and attempts at "hollowing out" the state have secured an influential role for the non-elected official. How officials interpret, advise, mediate and manage the exercise of local governance and local democracy presents a challenge to assumptions that public services are governed beyond or without local government. New narratives and reflections on the role of the local government Officer and the marginalisation of the elected Councillor are presented in the research. In particular, how the senior elite occupy managerial, strategic and political roles as Local Democracy Makers, offers an insight into the agency of strategic actors in localities. Consequently, the success of changes in public policy is materially influenced by how the practitioner responds to such dilemmas. The thesis concludes by suggesting that integral to the design and success of public policy implementation is the role of the Officer, and especially those practitioners that advise governing arrangements and democratic practice.
Date of AwardMar 2011
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJosephine T Kelly (Supervisor)


  • Employed practitioners
  • local governance
  • councillors
  • reflexivity

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