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Revisiting Lipsky: Front-Line Work in UK Local Governance

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Abstract

Lipsky's work on ‘street-level bureaucracy’ drew attention to the significant contribution to policy making made by front-line workers. This article revisits Lipsky's seminal analysis to explore whether contemporary front-line work in local governance presents a challenge to the ‘street-level bureaucrat’ characterisation. Since Lipsky's analysis, local government has been the subject of extensive reforms which have eroded traditional structures. In order to make local governance work, front-line workers need to be entrepreneurial to innovate and work the emergent spaces of local governance. This research uses an interpretive analysis to explore how front-line workers understand and relate their everyday work through storytelling. Front-line workers articulate a series of strategies which they employ to enable them to build relationships with the community. The article concludes that the emergent spaces at the periphery of local governance require front-line work that is less like ‘street-level bureaucracy’ and more like ‘civic entrepreneurship’.

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