National and local governments internationally are engaged in a struggle to fund, finance and govern urban infrastructure. Rather than clear categorizations within transformation frameworks, research into financializing city statecraft and infrastructure in the UK reveals the socially and spatially uneven mixing, mutating and innovating of managerial, entrepreneurial and financialized governance forms (Pike et al. 2019). In this geographical context since 2010, innovation and novelty in urban infrastructure funding, financing and governing are of a particular extent and character. Compelled, constrained and negotiated innovation is evident within asymmetrical and closely intertwined central-local relations in a highly centralized governance system. City actors are working within centrally circumscribed conditions of ‘decentralization’ and local ‘empowerment’ and are being encouraged to find ‘creative solutions to local problems’. Meanwhile, national government retains its ambiguous role as promoter and ultimate appraiser and authorizer of local proposals. Decision-making and the sanctioning of novelty is centrally controlled and orchestrated with some limited scope for negotiated accommodations and amendment of local innovations. National government’s managerialist institutions and conservative, risk averse administrative culture and ‘official mind’ remain distrustful of local capacity and initiative. In the highly centralized political-economy of the UK, peripherality affords constraints more than allowances; encouraging and forcing yet constraining and limiting local innovations and novelty in funding, financing and governing city infrastructures.
Discussant: Gino Cattani