Discretion as blame avoidance: Passing the buck to local authorities in ‘welfare reform’

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This paper argues that central governments can avoid blame for cuts to social security by transferring discretionary powers to local authorities. When making reductions to entitlements, conferring discretion avoids delineating the boundary of who is affected, allowing: for conflicts at the heart of policy formation to be deliberately fudged; decisions to be shielded from the gaze of the public and the courts; and responsibility for the impact of budget reductions to be externalised. Using three ‘welfare reforms’ in the UK as examples – the council tax reduction scheme, discretionary housing payments, and local welfare assistance schemes – four ‘blame avoidance’ functions of conferring discretion are proposed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-60
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Poverty and Social Justice
Issue number1
Early online date15 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2019

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  • welfare reform
  • Discretionary Housing Payments
  • discretionary housing payments, discretion, local authority, local government law

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