IFHP World Congress Liverpool 2008: Des McConaghy (440 word synopsis)


Synopsis: The Framework and Frontiers of Expenditure Based Planning


The 45 year perspective of my 2007 IFHP Copenhagen Paper "Urban Strategies and the Future of Cities" was a plea for effective participation - by public and planners alike - in each level of public expenditure planning in Britain. This paper deals explicitly with the mismatch between planning and the management of our national and local economic environments. It covers the absence of a coherently conceived "constituency dimension" to national planning; how this dislocation came about and what can be done about it.


The lack any formal British constitution or guaranteed local powers permitted a degree of centralisation unknown in other democracies - and at the centre there is still no effective parliamentary control of public expenditure or systematic incorporation of public audit or feedback as estimates come forward. These inherently chaotic arrangements were not improved - as some hoped - by successive governments' promotion of the privatised and voluntary state. On the contrary, neo-liberal monetary policies and globalisation created a crazy debt financed casino culture with potentially disastrous consequences for regional and local environments throughout Britain.


The way Liverpool's local circumstances have developed within this overall scenario is described historically and through public expenditure planning in recent decades - including local area management and centrally-targeted initiatives from the Community Development Projects of the 1960s to the PSAs, Housing Market Renewal Areas and the "Local Area Agreements" of today. The consistent failure of local government finance and successive local government reorganisations are revealed as the inevitable consequences of neglected opportunities from the 1970 reorganisation of central government onwards. Progress once promised for incorporating sectoral and constituency feedback in multi-level joint resource planning has been consistently obstructed by party political hegemony and a civil service where key Whitehall personnel management and functions are now being outsourced to private sector corporations in spite of the inherent complexity and instability of this process.


Important generalities emerge in comparisons with the EU (and states more constrained by formal constitutions such as Germany) and with the United States. But more generally economic liberalisation has exacerbated inequalities, de-industrialisation, the erosion of the traditional economic base everywhere - and in many countries whole populations are now "surplus to requirement"! Since 1990 the "Asian Tigers" pursued a "nationalist" approach very different from the Anglo-American notion of "automatic growth", and now Chinese state capitalism and Sovereign Wealth Funds play havoc with our notions of macro and micro-economic reform. However both the Asian and the Anglo-American economies rely on ever-increasing personal consumption which is obviously disastrous for this small and finite planet. The urgent need now is for a more deliberate approach to local sourcing and for public expenditure planning where local and sectoral feedback can continuously inform both micro and macro-economic reforms.


Des McConaghy


main publications referred to in final presentation:

(1972.A), The Limitations of Advocacy, (RIBA Journal, Vol 80, No 2, & Ekistics, Vol 234, No 201, Athens).

(1972.B), SNAP 69/72: Another Chance for Cities, (ISBN 0 901242 11X) Shelter, London.

(1975.A), SNAP - an Urban Programme. Paper at RTPI Glasgow Conference, 20 November 1974. Published in The Urban Crisis: Social Problems & Planning, Brand & Cox Edits. (RTPI, London), pp. 33-42, London 1975.

(1977.B), Persistent Confusions in Planning, Built Environment Quarterly, December 1977.

(1978.A), Setting up Six Towns: an Urban Strategy Gap, (Town Planning Review, Vol 49 No 2, Liverpool University Press), April 1978.

(1978.B), The Cutting Edge: Expenditure-Based Planning (Built Environment Quarterly) March 1978.

(1981.A), Planning in the Critical Decade, (The Planner, Vol 47, No 1, January/February 1981. RTPI, London).

(1981.E), THE FIRE-NOW ! (Local Government News, August 1981).

(1998.A), Comments on UK Government's White Paper, "Your Right to Know", House of Commons Select Committee on Public Administration Report, HC 398-II (p.150-152), May 1998, Stationery Office, London.

(1998.B), Comments on "Statistics: a Matter of Trust" (Cm 3882), House of Commons Treasury Sub-Committee Inquiry into the ONS, mimeo, July 1998.

(1999.A), Evidence for Inquiry into Performance Targets. (Comments on Cm 4181 & 4315). Treasury Committee, "Public Service Agreements", HC 378, 29 June 1999, Appendix 6, Stationery Office, London

(1999.B), Measuring (Accountable) Success - Analysis of Treasury Working Document (Public Money & Management Vol 19 No 4 October-December).

(2001.A), Government Resources and Accounts Bill (NIA Bill 6/00) (Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Finance & Personnel, Second Report, Session 2000/2001, 16 January 2001). Stationery Office, Belfast.

(2007.A), Getting It Together: Joined up Knowledge and the Strategic Framework of Debate (Public Money & Management Vol 27 No 1 February).

(2007.B), Urban Strategies and the Future of Cities: a Forty-five Year Perspective (International Federation of Housing & Planning, The Hague).

(2008.A), NAO Housing Market Renewal Report: HC20 Session 2007-2008, 9 November 2007; Evidence submitted to the Committee of Public Accounts (in print).

Mackenzie, W.J.M. (1978), Biological Ideas in Politics (Penguin London).


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Contact to Des McConaghy:


5 Glenluce Road, Liverpool L19 9BX

Biographical note

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