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Interventions and Intersections: Institutional Environment and Local Level Autonomy in LEADER. A Comparative Study.

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Elizabeth BrooksORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


The LEADER Programme is scrutinised in this article from the point of view of autonomy and local democracy, exploring to what extent these are linked with or distinct from higher level governance transformations towards decentralisation or recentralisation.Theoretical approaches derived from rural and government studies are interpreted in the first sections of the paper, exploring the debate regarding the correlation of autonomy and local democracy and the way it is manifested in LEADER. Most authors regard LEADER as a promotor of local democracy and identify a positive correlation between democracy and an enhanced local autonomy. However, a consensus among scholars also seems to be unfolding from these studies suggesting that the scope of 'LEADER democracy' is mostly narrow, restricting participation to more resourceful social groups due both to the 'thematic filters' of the Local Development Strategy and to 'procedural filters', such as capacities allocated to staff for animation and assistance to overcome difficulties of application. The empirical research background of this article is provided by two case studies, which were conducted in 2018-2019, one in England (Northumberland Uplands) and one in Hungary (Balaton Uplands), two states with complex recent histories and trajectories in terms of the devolution of governance to lower levels and local autonomy. The secondary interpretation of these case studies focuses on the degree of participation and autonomy of LAGs. The analysis reveals that the degree of autonomy (and to some extent of participation) declined in both countries in the last iteration compared to the the 2007-2013 programming cycle. It has also been uncovered that rather than the 'post transition', recentralised Hungarian context, it was the British institutional system and governance tradition that permitted more top-down intervention and less autonomy for LAGs.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Brooks E, Kovács K

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Space and Society

Year: 2021

Volume: 35

Issue: 4

Pages: 104-131

Online publication date: 06/12/2022

Acceptance date: 19/10/2021

Date deposited: 30/03/2022

ISSN (print): 0237-7683

ISSN (electronic): 2062-9923

Publisher: Research Center for Economic and Regional Sciences, Institute of Regional Research


DOI: 10.17649/TET.35.4.3390


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