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Responsible Citizens and Accountable Service Providers? Renegotiating the Contract between Citizen and State


  • Liz Richardson

    (Department of Politics, University of Manchester M13 9PL, England)

  • Kingsley Purdam

    (Social Statistics, Humanities Bridgeford Street Building, University of Manchester M13 9PL, England)

  • Sarah Cotterill

    (Centre for Biostatistics, University of Manchester M13 9PL, England)

  • James Rees

    (Third Sector Research Centre, Park House, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, England)

  • Graham Squires

    (Department of Geography, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, England)

  • Rebecca Askew

    (School of Law, LJMU Redmonds Building, Brownlow Hill, Liverpool L3 5UG, England)


New forms of governance, conditional approaches to public service access, and initiatives to engage citizens in taking on new responsibilities are being developed in the context of the scaling down of the welfare state. We examine the extent to which collaboration and multidirectional accountability can be developed between the state and citizens, with a focus on a case study of Community Contracts in England. These quasi-legal agreements, operationalised at the local level, involve citizens and service providers cooperating in tackling social problems through agreed responsibilities and behaviour. Findings from interviews and focus group research suggest that Community Contracts represent an innovation in governance. Citizens are given a voice and there are new pathways for effective service delivery and accountability; conditionality applies to citizens and service providers. However, although there was evidence of increased service accountability, the impact on civic responsibility and conditionality beyond already active citizens and beyond certain issues was less apparent. Although citizens and service providers were ready to take on new roles, the legal status of the contract was only loosely defined. Challenges remain concerning how contract-based approaches can be fully realised in practice.

Suggested Citation

  • Liz Richardson & Kingsley Purdam & Sarah Cotterill & James Rees & Graham Squires & Rebecca Askew, 2014. "Responsible Citizens and Accountable Service Providers? Renegotiating the Contract between Citizen and State," Environment and Planning A, , vol. 46(7), pages 1716-1731, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:envira:v:46:y:2014:i:7:p:1716-1731
    DOI: 10.1068/a46127

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. White, Stuart, 2000. "Review Article: Social Rights and Social Contract—Political Theory and the New Welfare Politics," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 30(3), pages 507-532, July.
    2. Noah J. Goldstein & Robert B. Cialdini & Vladas Griskevicius, 2008. "A Room with a Viewpoint: Using Social Norms to Motivate Environmental Conservation in Hotels," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 35(3), pages 472-482, March.
    3. Paul Lawless & Sarah Pearson, 2012. "Outcomes from Community Engagement in Urban Regeneration: Evidence from England's New Deal for Communities Programme," Planning Theory & Practice, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(4), pages 509-527, December.
    4. Bastagli, Francesca, 2010. "Poverty, inequality and public cash transfers: lessons from Latin America," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 36840, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
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