chapter  6
Pages 27

The previous three chapters have reviewed changes in the economic and employment structures of the three chosen societies and identified the continuing importance of the nation state and region to a full analysis of change. A further important dimension is that not only have there been economic changes and restructuring of the labour process, but the welfare state has also undergone change. The way state services have been delivered and the extent to which the welfare state should and can continue to provide the range of services established in the 1950s and 1960s has become a central question in each of the societies. The restructuring of the welfare state has in some cases involved moves from collective provision to income support and greater targeting and been accompanied by a desire to reduce the overall level of central and local government activity to enhance individual choice. The new agenda centres around debates about efficiency of delivery, consumer choices, and individual empowerment rather than bureaucratic allocation. One of the central tensions within this set of changes has been the fact that the rhetoric of greater individual freedom, choice, and autonomy to make decisions has operated in a context in which many of the changes have produced an increase in the level of power at the centre, with local authorities having their powers trimmed back rather than enhanced. How does such an apparently contradictory agenda emerge and how is it sustained? These are clearly important questions to be addressed particularly within the context of an examination of regional and urban change.