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Centre for Local and Regional Government Research

We research local government policy and public service improvement.

The Centre for Local and Regional Government Research at Cardiff University is acknowledged internationally as a leading site for research on local government policy and public service improvement.

It conducts rigorous, policy relevant research on the governance and management of local public services.

Its work focuses in particular on strategy; public service improvement; local partnership working; central-local relations; citizen engagement; and the regulation and accountability of public services.


Over the last decade the Centre has attracted almost £9 million in external research funding from research councils, charitable foundations, government departments, the European Union and a range of other agencies.

Staff have strong links to senior policy makers in Wales, at UK level and further afield, and their research has had a significant impact on policy and practice. They also have an outstanding record of academic research output and have published more than 150 papers in peer reviewed journals, 50 official reports, and a co-authored book Public Service Improvement; Theories and Evidence published by Oxford University Press in 2010.

Members of the Centre serve as editors and/or members of the editorial boards of leading academic journals in the field including: the British Journal of Management, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, American Journal of Political Science, American Political Science Review, Administration and Society, Public Administration Review, Local Government Studies, and Public Money and Management. They have also held key positions in academic networks including the Advanced Institute of Management, Economic and Social Research Council and the Public Management Research Association.

Staff also serve in a range of high profile advisory roles with the United Nations, National Trust, Council of Europe, HM Treasury, Department for Communities and Local Government, Electoral Commission, Audit Commission, Scottish Executive, Welsh Assembly Government and the Improvement and Development Agency, and they are regularly asked to contribute to official review and enquiries.

The Centre contributes to a range of leadership and development programmes and leads Cardiff University's MPA, a programme which has been designed specifically to meet the needs of senior public service leaders working in the civil service, health service, local government, police, fire and rescue services and voluntary sector.


Expert panel

The Expert Panel on Local Governance was one of five panels by the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) to provide ministers and officials in the UK with rapid access to cutting edge academic research and expert advice.

The expert panel on local governance brought together 18 specialists in the field from UK universities, consultancies and think tanks who were selected through a process of open competition.

The great advantage of the panel was that it was able to respond to policy makers' needs more flexibly and much faster than traditional research projects.

The panel was led by Professor Steve Martin from Cardiff University who was responsible for advising on the design of assignments, quality assurance of projects, administering payments to experts, and reviewing the operation of the panel to ensure that it provided the advice and support which policy makers require.

Completed studies

  • Strengthening local democracy consultation
  • Peer review of statistics for evaluation of effectiveness of unitaries
  • Understanding value for money in local authority led public services
  • Local Authority Mutual Insurance
  • Peer review of methodology paper on small business rate relief
  • Peer review of methodology for evaluating Inspiring Communities
  • Developing Evaluation Guidance for the Redress Review Trailblazers
  • Developing an Index of Civic Health
  • Local public services efficiency gains.

Panel members

  • Steve Martin, Cardiff University (lead panel member)
  • Andrew Collinge, Local Government Information Unit
  • Ben Page, Ipsos MORI
  • Bobby Duffy, Ipsos MORI
  • Chris Skelcher, Birmingham University
  • Colin Rallings, Plymouth University
  • Dan Graham, Imperial College
  • Debbie Lee Chan, Ipsos MORI
  • Edward Andersson, Involve
  • Helen Sullivan, Birmingham University
  • James Downe, Cardiff University
  • Lawrence Pratchett, DeMontfort University
  • Marian Barnes, Brighton University
  • Neil Wilcox, LG Futures
  • Peter Watt, Birmingham University
  • Peter Wells, Sheffield University
  • Rhys Andrews, Cardiff University
  • Robin Hambleton, University of the West of England
  • Salina Bates, CIPFA
  • Tony Bovaird, Birmingham University
  • Vivien Lowndes, DeMontfort University.


The Centre is undertaking a major programme of research on public services and local governance. Current and recently completed research focuses on four main themes.

Collaboration and partnership working

  • Partnership Working between the Public, Private, Voluntary Sectors
  • Mid-term Review of the Objective 1 Structural Fund Programme
  • Mid-term review of the Objective 3 Structural Fund Programme
  • Managing Partnership Approaches to Social Inclusion.

Inspection and performance management

  • Comparing for Improvement: the Development and Impact of Performance Regimes in England, Scotland and Wales
  • Impacts of Inspection on Local Government
  • Performance Measurement and Management of Local Public Services: Experience in European Countries
  • Independent Review of the Best Value Audit Process
  • Performance Management and Effective Local Governance
  • Evidence for Accountability: the use of evidence in the audit, inspection and scrutiny of government.

Local governance

  • Meta-evaluation of the Local Government Modernisation Agenda
  • Perspectives on Place Shaping and Service Delivery
  • The Free Communes Experiment
  • Decentralising to Neighbourhoods
  • Review of the Role and Functions of Elected Members
  • The Effectiveness of Local Scrutiny Committees
  • The Scrutiny Function of Regional Assemblies
  • Practice in Civic Education
  • Connecting Communities: improving communications in local government
  • Joining up Best Value and Other Initiatives
  • Lessons from Community Planning in Norway and Scotland.

Public service improvement

  • Learning to Improve: An Independent Evaluation of the Welsh Assembly Government's Policy for Local Government
  • How Public Management Matters: Strategy, Networking, and Local Service Performance
  • Leadership Change and Public Services: Reinvigorating Performance or Reinforcing Decline
  • Competition and Contestability in Local Public Services
  • Failure and Turnaround in Public Sector Organisations
  • Evaluation of the Impacts of Intervention and Recovery in Poorly Performing Authorities
  • Evaluation of the Impacts of Local Public Service Agreements
  • Evaluation of Rural Local Public Service Agreements
  • The Long-Term Impact of the Best Value Regime
  • The Value of Internal Service Providers
  • Population Size and Local Authority Performance
  • Excellence Wales Programme
  • Evaluation of the Wales Best Value Pilot Programme
  • Strategy and Performance in Welsh Local Government.

Next steps


Research that matters

Our research makes a difference to people’s lives as we work across disciplines to tackle major challenges facing society, the economy and our environment.


Postgraduate research

Our research degrees give the opportunity to investigate a specific topic in depth among field-leading researchers.


Our research impact

Our research case studies highlight some of the areas where we deliver positive research impact.