This chapter reviews recent English experience of partnership and community engagement during the period of office of the New Labour governments since 1997, drawing on the author’s experience in evaluating policy initiatives such as Local Strategic Partnerships (LSP) and the New Deal for Communities (NDC) programme.1 The chapter argues that there have been certain gains, including a greater voice for community organisations, more joined up local strategies, and improved trust within local governance networks. But these have been limited and patchy: while a ‘virtuous circle’ of positive partnership working can be discerned in some localities, in others a number of factors such as ineffective leadership, the limited resources and capacity of partnerships, and unresolved issues of accountability combine in a ‘vicious circle’ in which the transaction costs of partnership working outweigh the benefits. In general, while it should be recognised that building effective partnerships takes time, there are as yet relatively few substantial examples of hard outcomes demonstrating the added value of partnership working.
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