This article scrutinizes the ambiguous nature of community development (CD) in England. It does so by drawing attention to CD’s porous boundaries in relation to its allied community-based practices. Empirical evidence is provided – from national policy-making and the policy and practice in a case study local authority in England – that the Coalition government (2010–2015) exploited the ambiguity of CD by re-shaping its practices as social enterprise, volunteering and community organizing. This was to achieve a ‘new’ permutation of neoliberalism where civil society and its citizens provide local public services instead of ‘relying’ on state intervention and resources. The article concludes that the CD academic and practitioner field both shapes and is shaped by competing discourses of CD ‘fighting’ for hegemonic articulation. Yet, to the detriment of the field, this is rarely acknowledged nor engaged with.