Decentralisation and central-local relations: the case of policing and mental health in England
Over the last decade, British governments have advocated a combined policing and health policy based on the premise that everyday more people come to police attention due to mental illness issues. Central authorities emphasise co-produced local community initiatives including street triage and clinical liaison and diversion programmes as mechanisms for better managing mental health issues. The model of governance of policing and mental health developed by the Conservative governments emphasises a decentralisation of services as a means of better managing local demands. Consequently, much of the policy burden falls upon local police forces and the austerity-afflicted NHS overstressing the front lines of delivery. We argue that this rationale challenges the traditionally established model of central-local governance which saw local authorities implementing national policy. However, whilst central government has shifted responsibility for services to local deliverers, the structural and policy barriers to an integrated approach to mental health and policing have proven difficult to change when directed from the centre of government. The executive’s continuous direction of policy in a climate of austerity politics triggers not only a debate on the sustainability of local governance but also with regard to what power of delivery local institutions have. We conclude that the nature of governmental decentralisation on cross-sectorial policymaking can jeopardise the creation of sustainable local governance practices.
KeywordsAusterity Decentralisation Central-local governance Police NHS
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