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Newcastle City Council and the grassroots: Accountability and budgeting under austerity

Ahrens, T.; Ferry, L.

Newcastle City Council and the grassroots: Accountability and budgeting under austerity Thumbnail


T. Ahrens


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to shed light on new accountability relationships between Newcastle City Council (NCC) and its citizens and stakeholders in the wake of the British government’s austerity politics and its budget cuts for local authorities. It seeks to show some of the ways in which various kinds of budgeting, for example, for alternative sources of funding, the use of volunteers for service provision, resource sharing, and asset transfers, as well as a diverse set of accounts of the social implications of resource diversions and service cuts, have been implicated in those changes. Design/methodology/approach – The authors conducted a qualitative field study of some of the uses of budgets in the shaping of accountability relationships through interviews with council officers, conversations with activists and citizens, analysis of council and other documents, and observation of public meetings and demonstrations. The approach focused on the relationship between the city’s political grassroots and the NCC leadership and administration. Findings – The authors find that NCC’s senior politicians and officers co-opted the city’s political grassroots and managed to reconstitute local political accountability to citizenry and stakeholders as a choice between the cessation of different types of local government services, by combining appeals to the legal framework of English local authorities, the unfairness of national politics, and the fairness of local government service provision. Local government blamed the funding cuts and the resulting resource shortages on the central government. It sought to push responsibility for cuts to the local citizenry whilst reserving for itself the role of mediator and adjudicator who makes the final decisions about the portfolio of causes that will be funded. Originality/value – This is the first study to offer detailed insight into the effects of the British government’s austerity budget cuts of local authority grants on the politics of accountability in a local authority.


Ahrens, T., & Ferry, L. (2015). Newcastle City Council and the grassroots: Accountability and budgeting under austerity. Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, 28(6), 909-933.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Aug 17, 2015
Publication Date Aug 17, 2015
Deposit Date Oct 23, 2015
Publicly Available Date Aug 17, 2017
Journal Accounting Auditing and Accountability
Print ISSN 0951-3574
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 28
Issue 6
Pages 909-933
Keywords Accountability, Austerity, Localism, Budgeting, Local government, Grassroots politics.
Public URL


Accepted Journal Article (343 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This article is © Emerald Group Publishing and permission has been granted for this version to appear here ( Emerald does not grant permission for this article to be further copied/distributed or hosted elsewhere without the express permission from Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

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