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London: planning the ungovernable city

Gordon, Ian R. ORCID: 0000-0002-2170-8193 and Travers, Tony (2010) London: planning the ungovernable city. City, Culture and Society, 1 (2). pp. 49-55. ISSN 1877-9166

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Identification Number: 10.1016/j.ccs.2010.08.005


This paper relates the processes of strategic planning in London during the first decade of an executive Mayoral system to Doug Yates’ thesis about the ungovernability of major cities and London’s long history of conflict around metropolitan governance issues. Yates’ thesis only partially fits the London case because a separate lower tier of lower tier of borough authorities carries the main responsibilities for actual service provision. This London case, does, however, exemplify the proposition that without effective fiscal autonomy in planning for infrastructure provision, the need to manage diplomatic relations with higher levels of government (and other funders) can divert city strategies from those appropriate to the needs of the mass of their own constituents/businesses. In London as in other national capitals, this tension is intensified by a symbolic importance that inhibits central government from taking a detached stance in relation to priorities of the city administration. Examination of the experience of Mayoral Plans for London suggest that sheer complexity of relations and interdependences across a much extended, diverse and dynamic metropolitan region is also a major restraint on governability as far as strategic planning is concerned. An inability to face up to this complexity, particularly in relation to cross-border relations has – as much as the (diplomatic) obsession with the ‘global city’ priorities – so far proved a major obstacle to using Mayoral strategic planning as an effective means of steering change in the region, and addressing central issues affecting economic efficiency and residents’ quality of life.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2010 Elsevier
Divisions: Government
Geography & Environment
Spatial Economics Research Centre
LSE London
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD100 Land Use
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
J Political Science > JS Local government Municipal government
JEL classification: O - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth > O1 - Economic Development > O18 - Regional, Urban, and Rural Analyses
R - Urban, Rural, and Regional Economics > R5 - Regional Government Analysis
Date Deposited: 12 Jul 2011 10:49
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 01:08

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