Recent blog posts from around the School

Blog: Shuffling the decks: quick fixes versus long-term stability

Blog: Shuffling the decks: quick fixes versus long-term stability
Description
Development Progress Blog. Ahead of the launch of our case studies on security progress in Liberia and Timor-Leste, Suda Perera writes on the risk that 'quick fixes' to violent conflict pose to development in the long-term. Taking the example of the Democratic Republic of Congo, she outlines the pitfalls of empowering warring parties and the challenging reality that good elections do not necessarily result in good democracy.
Date:
Friday 23rd January 2015

Blog: The fairness (or otherwise) of the 2015-16 local government finance settlement

Blog: The fairness (or otherwise) of the 2015-16 local government finance settlement
Description
Written by Chris Game. In choosing to announce the 2015-16 local government finance settlement just eight days before Christmas, ministers presumably hoped – as, indeed, I'd expected – that the argument about the presentation of funding and spending cut statistics for local authorities, both collectively and individually, would have died away by mid-January. However, it hasn't, which is why I too am returning to the topic, which had its importance re-emphasised several times over the past week.
Date:
Wednesday 21st January 2015

Blog: Playwright, Prisoner and President: the Life of Vaclav Havel

Blog: Playwright, Prisoner and President: the Life of Vaclav Havel
Description
Written by Dr Tim Haughton, A review of Michael Zantovsky, Havel: a Life, London: Atlantic Books (2014). You only really appreciate someone when they have left. The death of Vaclav Havel in December 2011 provoked a week of mourning, warm and generous words from his political foes, and for many 'perhaps a rediscovery' of the man who had played so many different roles in his life: playwright, political prisoner and president (p. 14).
Date:
Tuesday 20th January 2015

Blog: Do Local Authorities Really Want Sustainable Construction Powers?

Blog: Do Local Authorities Really Want Sustainable Construction Powers?
Description
Written by Max Lempriere. When it comes to setting sustainable construction standards new research reveals English local authorities favour national regulation over local powers.
Date:
Monday 19th January 2015

Blog: New ways of working for district councils

Blog: New ways of working for district councils
Description
Written by Anthony Mason. My primary school history teacher always taught that the shires of England were mapped out by Alfred the Great. For me, that story was confirmed by an illustration in my treasured Ladybird book on the great man (Alfred – not the teacher) that shows four burly Saxons knocking in a waymark post as they lay out the boundary pattern. I still have that book. I later learned that while the reality was much more complicated, it is essentially true that much of our shire county structure would be familiar to a returning Anglo Saxon – even if not much else would be.
Date:
Friday 19th December 2014

Blog: Typhoon Haiyan One Year On: Reflections on Disability Research in the Philippines

Blog: Typhoon Haiyan One Year On: Reflections on Disability Research in the Philippines
Description
Written by David Cobley. Super Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda), the strongest typhoon on record ever to make landfall, ripped across the heavily-populated central Philippine provinces on 8th November 2013, leaving a trail of death, devastation and shattered lives in its wake. One year on, at the time of my visit to the Philippines, many people were still struggling to cope with the catastrophic consequences of Haiyan.
Date:
Thursday 18th December 2014

Blog: The journey to the common: what is the role of the voluntary sector?

Blog: The journey to the common: what is the role of the voluntary sector?
Description
Written by Anna Coleman and Julia Segar. A recent publication by the New Local Government Network (NLGN) looked at how local councils are preparing for the future and suggests depressingly that "there is simply no way that local government can reach 2018 let alone 2020 while still delivering the full range and quality of services currently on offer"(p6). Simply put, we have an ageing population, with associated increasing demand for care services and draconian cuts in council budgets.
Date:
Friday 12th December 2014

Blog: The LGC100: what it does and doesn't measure

Blog: The LGC100: what it does and doesn't measure
Description
Written by Chris Game. I used, years ago, to have a whole Pol Sci 1 lecture about power and influence, their similarities and differences. By one of life's synchronicities, I've been reminded of it twice in the past week. Don't go – I'm not about to disinter it, although I will share the six-word summary that I could, if really pushed, get it down to: Power's a tool, Influence a skill.
Date:
Friday 5th December 2014

Blog: The future is Intercommunality – yes, but with whom?

Blog: The future is Intercommunality – yes, but with whom?
Description
Written by Chris Game. Rom com/date movies aren't really my thing, so my excuse for watching the recent Words and Pictures was that I was a captive plane passenger – and that the ever-watchable Juliette Binoche was playing a rheumatoid arthritic abstract painter and prep school art teacher. The title refers to the silly challenge she charily accepts from alcoholic poet turned plagiarising English teacher, Clive Owen, to 'prove' whether Words or Pictures are more meaningful.
Date:
Monday 1st December 2014

Blog: Ebola - where are the governments?

Blog: Ebola - where are the governments?
Description
Written by Dr Andrew Nickson. The terrible Ebola tragedy has spawned massive coverage in the world's media of Sierra Leone and Liberia – with harrowing images of victims, relatives, health workers, doctors, and aid agency staff. Yet one key 'stakeholder' in the fight against Ebola has been notably missing from this coverage – the government of both countries. Most of us would be hard pressed to name the presidents of either country* as they have been almost invisible, and the same goes for their respective health ministers.
Date:
Friday 21st November 2014

Blog: The PwC report on Tower Hamlets highlights fundamental tensions in local democracy, not always thought through clearly in new mayoral systems

Blog: The PwC report on Tower Hamlets highlights fundamental tensions in local democracy, not always thought through clearly in new mayoral systems
Description
Written by Michael Keith. Competent bureaucrats commonly believe they protect the public interest by delivering transparent decision making in public institutions. This is commendable. Politicians normally believe that they are elected to carry out the wishes of their voters. This is forgivable. But these imperatives rub against each other when politicians try reshaping things in an image they prefer and the bureaucrat wants to preserve an order they recognize. This is difficult.
Date:
Friday 21st November 2014

Blog: Pickles' Tower Hamlets takeover: a sad affair all round

Blog: Pickles' Tower Hamlets takeover: a sad affair all round
Description
Written by Chris Game. He kept Communities and Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles, waiting until almost literally the 23rd hour of the 14th day of his two-week deadline. In the end, though, Tower Hamlets' elected mayor, Lutfur Rahman, having last Friday lost his second, and ill-advised, application for a judicial review, was left with little choice.
Date:
Thursday 20th November 2014

Blog: What legacy will the rush to build houses leave for the next generation?

Blog: What legacy will the rush to build houses leave for the next generation?
Description
Written by Ian Briggs. Many rural and semi-rural localities are struggling to cope with the increasing number of applications for potential new housing developments, a proportion of which seem to defy logic and sound planning sense when matched against local knowledge and established patterns of socialisation.
Date:
Thursday 13th November 2014

Blog: Preaching to the choir: reflections on key leadership skills for local authority chief executives – part 3: courage

Blog: Preaching to the choir: reflections on key leadership skills for local authority chief executives – part 3: courage
Description
Written by Catherine Staite. Leadership is not a sprint – it's a marathon. You are in it for the long haul and that is why courage is so important. Maya Angelou argued that courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage you can't practice any other virtue consistently and that is certainly evident in the role of chief executive. Not only do you need to keep yourself going through challenging times, you also need to be able to demonstrate courage to your staff and members. If you falter, so will they.
Date:
Friday 31st October 2014

Blog: Achieving better outcomes for the troubled family of local government

Blog: Achieving better outcomes for the troubled family of local government
Description
Written by Simon Parker. In this debate, Simon Parker (NLGN), Catherine Staite (INLOGOV) and Tony Bovaird (INLOGOV) agree that the current state of UK local government is unsustainable – but see different routes to rescuing a sustainable future.
Date:
Thursday 30th October 2014

Blog: Preaching to the choir: reflections on key leadership skills for local authority chief executives – part 2: charm

Blog: Preaching to the choir: reflections on key leadership skills for local authority chief executives – part 2: charm
Description
Written by Catherine Staite. Charm is shorthand for a sophisticated set of skills which enable you to make new connections and solve old problems. Charm is about much more than being nice in a superficial way – otherwise known as 'smarm'. If you don't have real charm then just be gruff and honest. Everyone will understand. Smarm, on the other hand, will simply breed distrust.
Date:
Tuesday 28th October 2014

Blog: Postcard from Tokyo: local government remorse, Japanese-style

Blog: Postcard from Tokyo: local government remorse, Japanese-style
Description
Written by Chris Game. I've had the good fortune to spend the past week in Tokyo, as Japan commemorates the 50th anniversary of arguably the most geo-politically transformative Olympic Games, in the city that underwent a scarcely credible urban transformation in order to stage them.
Date:
Monday 27th October 2014

Blog: Preaching to the choir: reflections on key leadership skills for local authority chief executives – part 1: creativity

Blog: Preaching to the choir: reflections on key leadership skills for local authority chief executives – part 1: creativity
Description
Written by Catherine Staite. I have called this blog series 'preaching to the choir' as it is dedicated to local authority chief executives and they already know a great deal about leadership. They wouldn't survive and thrive in their posts if they didn't.
Date:
Friday 24th October 2014

Blog: The Boko Haram ceasefire and violence in Nigeria

Blog: The Boko Haram ceasefire and violence in Nigeria
Description
Written by Professor Paul Jackson. Amongst the violent international groups vying for our attention, Boko Haram in Nigeria has been one of the most persistent. Boko Haram declared an Islamic caliphate in Gwoza, along the Cameroon border, in August 2014, and the group has been raiding several cities across the north.
Date:
Friday 24th October 2014

Blog: Can smart maps improve local government?

Blog: Can smart maps improve local government?
Description
Written by Walter T. de Vries. Local governments are increasingly making use of internet-based applications and social media to provide services and to interact with citizens. Are these applications however really helping local governments?
Date:
Wednesday 8th October 2014

Blog: Cinderella has been at the ball for more than a century and no one has noticed her!

Blog: Cinderella has been at the ball for more than a century and no one has noticed her!
Description
Written by Ian Briggs. Local government has struggled with the concept of localism for far longer than most of us might think. It has not just been the clarion call of localism from the Coalition Government since 2010 and the subsequence Localism Act that posed some pretty serious questions about the structure of our local democratic processes. The issue of connectivity between the citizen and the 'agent of the state' has been under academic scrutiny for a long time.
Date:
Tuesday 7th October 2014

Blog: Buying local votes? Campaign spending effects in Belgian local elections

Blog: Buying local votes? Campaign spending effects in Belgian local elections
Description
Written by Gert-Jan Put, Bart Maddens and Jef Smulders. In democratic countries worldwide, elections are being organized on an increasingly larger scale. This makes it more challenging for political parties and candidates to communicate with voters and reach their target groups. Alternatively, they resort to mass media and costly electoral campaigns, for which parties and candidates are often prepared to spend exorbitant amounts of money.
Date:
Monday 6th October 2014

Blog: Local government: keepers of the moral compass?

Blog: Local government: keepers of the moral compass?
Description
Written by Catherine Staite. Barry Quirk's excellent article in the Local Government Chronicle highlighted the often overlooked role of local government as the guardian of pubic ethics.
Date:
Tuesday 30th September 2014

Blog: Local government - more appreciated than it often thinks

Blog: Local government - more appreciated than it often thinks
Description
Written by Chris Game. Someone asked me recently if, in those opinion polls that regularly monitor these things, net satisfaction with the government's record was ever positive. In other words, are there ever nowadays more of us satisfied than dissatisfied with those who govern us, or have we become, on balance, a nation of malcontents, whoever we happen to have elected?
Date:
Tuesday 30th September 2014

Blog: What skills does a 21st Century fire service need?

Blog: What skills does a 21st Century fire service need?
Description
Written by Dave Cross. Over the past twenty years the fire service, like many other public sector agencies has undergone radical change. Whilst the public's expectation of the fire service as a response based fire and rescue service remains the same, the organisational expectations of fire fighters has increased markedly. To quote a senior Greater Manchester fire officer "The job of a fire fighter nowadays has changed from not just putting out fires… to almost being a semi social worker".
Date:
Friday 26th September 2014

Blog: Devo max - what it is and why it won't happen

Blog: Devo max - what it is and why it won't happen
Description
Written by Chris Game. Devo Max – it sounds like a 99% efficient toilet cleaner, or a dodgy West Country car dealer, but either way I visualise its initials in upper case. And that's its problem. It's undoubtedly the 'must use' expression of the month. It's not complicated, like 'full fiscal autonomy' or the Barnett formula, so anyone feels able to drop it authoritatively into even casual conversation. And everyone has their own idea of what it is.
Date:
Thursday 25th September 2014

Blog: In case you missed it: the Local Government (Independence) Bill

Blog: In case you missed it: the Local Government (Independence) Bill
Description
Written by Chris Game. It was partly the timing. In combination, the suddenly increased likelihood of both Scottish independence and a Coalition break-up were bound to eclipse last Friday's scheduled Second Reading of the Local Government (Independence) Bill. It was unfortunate, though. After all, local government independence would be a pretty big deal too, wouldn't it?
Date:
Tuesday 9th September 2014

Blog: Councils should have the power NOT to tax supermarkets

Blog: Councils should have the power NOT to tax supermarkets
Description
Written by Chris Game. There's no shortage of reasons to dislike supermarkets generally and Tesco in particular – their flimsy carrier bags, their irritating BOGOFs and BOGOHOs (Buy One, Get One Half Off), their unpoliced disabled parking bays, their Everyday Value instant coffee granules. Then there are all the economic, environmental and social reasons – the ones understandably more emphasised in Derby City Council's recent proposal that local authorities be given the power to introduce a levy of 8.5% of rateable value on large retail outlets: a supermarket or Tesco tax, as it was instantly labelled by the media.
Date:
Monday 1st September 2014

Blog: On Reporting the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

Blog: On Reporting the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict
Description
Written by Dr Kamala Imranli-Lowe and Dr Galina Yemelianova. In early August 2014 the British media reported an escalation in the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This has brought the conflict, which has been less covered since the cease-fire of May 1994, back to the media's attention. This blog is intended to shed some light on the role of the British, and the wider Western, media in shaping particular attitudes among the public, as well as policy-makers involved in the negotiation process over this conflict.
Date:
Monday 18th August 2014

Blog: Predictably Unpredictable: The 2014 parliamentary elections in Slovenia

Blog: Predictably Unpredictable: The 2014 parliamentary elections in Slovenia
Description
Written by Dr Alenka Krašovec, University of Ljubljana and Dr Tim Haughton, University of Birmingham. Parliamentary elections and party politics in Slovenia are becoming predictable in their unpredictability. For the first two decades of the country's independence party politics was largely stable. True, in the second decade the once mighty force of Slovene politics, Liberal Democracy, saw its support drop, the Social Democrats emerged as a powerful force, but only really for one election in 2008, and there were a stream of new parties...
Date:
Monday 28th July 2014
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Departmental news

How stable is Saudi monarchy after King Abdullah's death?

How stable is Saudi monarchy after King Abdullah's death?
Description
Written by Professor Scott Lucas. On 23 January, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah died at the age of 90 and was succeeded by his half-brother Salman, 79, one of the last sons of Saudi Arabia's founder Ibn Saud. The regime is keeping a watchful eye on dissent, including in the mainly Shia Eastern Province, and on internal security amid concerns over returning fighters from conflicts such as the Syrian crisis.
Date:
30/01/2015

Podcast: EU as an international security actor

Podcast: EU as an international security actor
Description
The Department of Political Science and International Studies (POLSIS) Departmental Seminar. Speaker: Adrian Hyde-Price (Gothenburg), Discussant: Derek Averre (POLSIS/CREES).
Date:
30/01/2015

Explainer: what is Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia?

Explainer: what is Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia?
Description
Written by Dr Galina Yemelianova. The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has stirred debate about the future direction of the world's richest Arab state. That direction will be significantly coloured by how his brother and successor, King Salman, approaches Wahhabism – the religious sect that is at once an intrinsic part of the state and its biggest threat.
Date:
30/01/2015

Podcast: International Relations: All That Matters

Podcast: International Relations: All That Matters
Description
The talk introduced Professor Ken Booth's latest book, which seeks to provide an accessible but sophisticated understanding of international relations for those with no specialised knowledge of the field (which is almost everybody in the world).
Date:
30/01/2015

Lebanon is cracking under the pressure from Syria and Iraq

Lebanon is cracking under the pressure from Syria and Iraq
Description
Written by Dr Christalla Yakinthou. Lebanon has always been a complicated jigsaw, but despite years of war, regional conflict, and meddling in its affairs, it has displayed a tremendous ability to absorb tension. But the threads that hold this fragile country together are rapidly starting to fray.
Date:
28/01/2015