Skip to main content

Explaining local authority policy making: Class pressures, professional interests and systems of political management in two county councils

Harrington, Timothy John (1984) Explaining local authority policy making: Class pressures, professional interests and systems of political management in two county councils. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94402) (KAR id:94402)


This thesis studies the role of professional officers in local authority policy making. It addresses two questions: what are the determinants of professional influence on local policy and intervention; and how, if at all, does the relative influence of the determinants vary between councils and with time? A review of urban managerialist, marxist and other theories of local government is carried out, together with a detailed critique of recent 'dualist' models. The approach adopted in the thesis uses a theoretical model of local authority policy making which takes class and non-class variables into account. The model has three elements, each drawing on a different theoretical perspective. A class perspective is used to explain the expansion of state professions and the pressures that constrain professional autonomy. A managerialist perspective is introduced to explain how the interests of state professions act as an independent, nonclass determinant of local authority policy. Finally, an analysis of systems of political management - which refers to the relative size of local political parties and the extent of party policies in an authority - is used to account for the precise level of professional autonomy. Empirical research was undertaken in the county councils of Cheshire and Clwyd. This involved interviews with professional officers in the fields of industrial development, corporate management, planning and social services. Documents produced by the two authorities and a number of secondary sources were also used. The significance of class relations, professional interests and systems of political management is identified by making comparisons between different authorities, different fields of policy, different systems of political management and over time. A number of conclusions are reached. First, that local authority intervention in various fields resulted from a combination of class-based pressures and professional interests and that the system of political management determined the relative influence of class relations and professional interests in any particular authority. For example, Clwyd's involvement in the field of industrial development was partly a response to the economic decline of the area and the pressures this generated, but the precise form of the County's industrial development programme was determined by the interests of the authority's corporate managers. The system of political management in Clwyd accounted for the degree of professional autonomy enjoyed by corporate managers. Second, that particular features of local government - such as levels of professional autonomy - and patterns of local intervention - involving, for example, high levels of expenditure - may be brought about by different combinations of class relations, professional interests and systems of political management. Third, that a multi-theoretical model in which the theories are related 'hierarchically' (such that each nests within another and refers to a distinct level of abstraction) is preferable to a dualist model. Finally, that the relative influence of class relations and professional interests on local authority intervention varies more significantly with different systems of political management than between different fields of policy as dualist models would suggest.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Pickvance, Chris
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94402
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Urban planning, rural planning, local authorities, county councils
Subjects: H Social Sciences
J Political Science > JS Local government. Municipal government
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 16 Mar 2023 10:37 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2023 16:20 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.