The Rise of the Resilient Local Authority?

Keith Shaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Citations (Scopus)
37 Downloads (Pure)


The term resilience is increasingly being utilised within the study of public policy to depict how individuals, communities and organisations can adapt, cope, and ‘bounce back’ when faced with external shocks such as climate change, economic recession and cuts in public expenditure. In focussing on the local dimensions of the resilience debate, this article argues that the term can provide useful insights into how the challenges facing local authorities in the UK can be reformulated and reinterpreted. The article also distinguishes between resilience as ‘recovery’ and resilience as ‘transformation’, with the latter's focus on ‘bouncing forward’ from external shocks seen as offering a more radical framework within which the opportunities for local innovation and creativity can be assessed and explained. While also acknowledging some of the weaknesses of the resilience debate, the dangers of conceptual ‘stretching’, and the extent of local vulnerabilities, the article highlights a range of examples where local authorities – and crucially, local communities – have enhanced their adaptive capacity, within existing powers and responsibilities. From this viewpoint, some of the barriers to the development of resilient local government are not insurmountable, and can be overcome by ‘digging deep’ to draw upon existing resources and capabilities, promoting a strategic approach to risk, exhibiting greater ambition and imagination, and creating space for local communities to develop their own resilience.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-300
JournalLocal Government Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2012


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