Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Localism and the Big Society: the asset transfer of leisure centres and libraries - fighting closures or empowering communities?

Lookup NU author(s): Deborah Forbes



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


This paper critically examines the ‘asset transfer’ of leisure services from the public to the voluntary sector. Asset transfer might be theorised as ‘austerity localism’, in which volunteers are obliged to fill the gaps left by retreating public provision, or as ‘progressive localism’, which represents new opportunities through the localism and Big Society agendas to develop more locally-responsive, cooperative and mutualist visions. In this way asset transfer might overcome the limitations of United Kingdom policies in which ‘Big Government’ is replaced by civic society. Drawing on qualitative interviews with key personnel (volunteers, managers and local authority officers) at twelve leisure facilities, a grounded assessment of the nuanced balance between ‘austerity localism’ and ‘progressive localism’ is provided, including three observations. First, the main impetus for transfer was cuts in local authority budgets which stimulated the emergence of local groups of volunteers. Secondly, the transfers themselves required interaction between local government and the volunteer groups; however, the nature of the relationship and support given varied and support was limited by austerity measures. Thirdly, volunteers do not automatically fill a gap left by the state: without support transfer viability relies on the financial and social capital among volunteer groups, and this is unevenly distributed. These findings suggest that the capacity for a ‘progressive localism’ to emerge through asset transfer is limited. However, where transfer has occurred, there are some progressive benefits of volunteer empowerment and a more flexible service

Publication metadata

Author(s): Findlay-King L, Nichols G, Forbes D, Macfadyen G

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Leisure Studies

Year: 2018

Volume: 37

Issue: 2

Pages: 158-170

Print publication date: 01/03/2018

Online publication date: 08/02/2017

Acceptance date: 17/01/2017

Date deposited: 22/03/2017

ISSN (print): 0261-4367

ISSN (electronic): 1466-4496

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/02614367.2017.1285954


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric