Joined-up government has featured prominently on the agenda of the New Labour government in the UK. However, the politics of joining-up remain under-explored, with disproportionate emphasis on the technical and managerial dimensions of the challenge. This paper argues that political value conflicts form an essential part of the explanation for the replication of ‘silos’ within city strategic partnerships, the joining-up institution of choice at the local scale. A study of the local politics of social inclusion in the British cities of Dundee and Hull revealed a strong partnership ethos. However, this ethos sustained only a shallow consensus over abstract goals, at the same time legitimating the avoidance of political value conflicts. Thematic partnerships comprising interest group clusters with different political values therefore tended to replicate silo practices. The paper argues, consequently, that the consensual partnership ethos caused the displacement of value conflicts, in turn causing fragmented governance. It concludes with three propositions for further research.