Mr Alistair Jones

Job: Associate Professor and University Teacher Fellow

Faculty: Business and Law

School/department: Leicester Castle Business School

Research group(s): Local Governance Research Unit

Address: The Gateway, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK, LE1 9BH

T: +44 (0)116 2078787

E: anjones@dmu.ac.uk

W: www.dmu.ac.uk/pol

 

Personal profile

I have taught on a wide range of subjects at DMU, including a range of modules on British Politics, the EU, public affairs, public administration and public sector management. Added to this, I have been an Erasmus lecturer at the Charles University, Prague, lecturing on Brexit. For the last five years, I have also taught at Liaoning National University, Shenyang, on British Culture, as part of the preparation of Chinese students coming to study in the UK. I feature in local, national and international media on a regular basis, especially in relation to Brexit, but also on more general aspects of British politics.

Research group affiliations

Local Governance Research Centre (LGRC)

Publications and outputs 

  • The Institute for Fiscal Studies Report: English Council Funding: What’s Happened and What’s Next?
    The Institute for Fiscal Studies Report: English Council Funding: What’s Happened and What’s Next? Copus, Colin; Jones, Alistair The article reviews the recent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IfFS) report, English Council Funding: What’s Happened and What’s Next. The article provides an overview of the main themesand findings of the report which examines the consequences of a sustained period of austerity for English local government and the impact of austerity on certain key council services.The article explores what the report has to say about the way councils have responded to reductions in government funding and the strategies they have developed to protect certain frontline services. The article reviews the suggestions made in the IfFS report for changing English local government funding and finds that they reflect a form of centralist thinking which lacks a radical edge when it comes to reform.
  • Parish Councils and Councillors: a resurgence in the most local tier of government in England?
    Parish Councils and Councillors: a resurgence in the most local tier of government in England? Jones, Alistair In the UK, local authorities are already the largest across Europe. There are moves in England and Wales to make some of these local authorities even larger. This is being carried out through voluntary mergers as well as through central government initiatives. As these principal authorities get so large, they lose their feeling of ‘locality’. A consequence is they are becoming distanced from the communities they are supposed to represent. Into this vacuum an increased role for parish councils is appearing. Parish councils do not have the same financial constraints on them as principal authorities. Some of them are picking up the delivery of services which the principal authorities claim they can no longer deliver, and delivering said services more effectively and more efficiently through local engagement. At the same time, there appears to be increasing interest among the population in both establishing parish councils (including within London) and in standing for election to parish councils. Thus the ‘local’ may be coming back into local councils. This paper explores the ways in which parish councils are being revived. No longer are they dismissed as being superfluous or a joke. Instead, they appear to be taking up the reins of local government, and trying to make it ‘local’ again. Concepts such as ‘democratic deficit’ have been used against principal authorities and parish councils. The apparent resurgence in parish councils suggests a degree of interest in, and enthusiasm for, ‘local’ government. All of this brings into question the extent to which there may be such a democratic deficit. This deficit may be questioned further when noting the levels of interest from members of the public in standing for office at the parish council level. Part of this may be attributed to the ‘local’ issues, but there is also an important factor of party labels. Most parish council elections are fought without party labels – or, at least, open party labels. Party politics appears to matter far less at this most local level.
  • Are we doing them a dis-service? Preparing students to study overseas: a case study of Chinese students and British Culture.
    Are we doing them a dis-service? Preparing students to study overseas: a case study of Chinese students and British Culture. Jones, Alistair There are a number of issues around this approach. Firstly there is the issue of content. What content should be taught to these students? There are a range of topics that could be covered, but these may be constrained by time pressures. Secondly, there is the way in which the students are taught. In the UK, there are a range of innovative methods to teach students, including flipped classrooms and co-creative learning. The problem is the vast majority of Chinese students have only experience of a lecturer standing at the front of the class, with no interaction between lecturer and students beyond a monologue. Noting that a number of these students will come to the UK to study, there is an issue over the way in which they are taught. The innovations in the UK (and elsewhere) leave many overseas students like a fish out of water. There is a clear concern over inclusivity. This is before the third issue is even encountered: language skills. In the case study, there is the situation of a European lecturer conducting classes in English, on the subject of British Culture. There is a language in which there is varied proficiency in class on a subject about which the vast majority of students know absolutely nothing. To be able to study in the UK, there are minimum standards of English proficiency. There may be a question as to whether these standards are sufficient for students to be able to study effectively in the UK. To make things more complicated, the whole teaching structure in the case study is devised in the standard Chinese format. It is very intensive. There are three one-hour lectures every morning (Monday to Friday). Each student will have two one-hour seminars during the week. On top of this there is also assessment. There are very obvious time pressures. This paper will explore the different pressures placed on both staff and students in such a scenario. Underpinning the whole paper is the question of: what could be done better? To what extent, if at all, are we doing these students a dis-service? Or, alternatively, what needs to be done better to enable these students to study more effectively?
  • Are we learning from the old? A case study of Welsh local government restructuring
    Are we learning from the old? A case study of Welsh local government restructuring Jones, Alistair Local Government in Wales has undergone restructuring in the 1970s, the 1990s, and is currently undergoing the process again. In each round of restructuring, the same arguments appear: economies of scale, rationalisation, reducing costs, reducing the number of councillors. The result has been fewer councils across Wales and fewer councillors. The question has to be raised as to the extent of the lesson-learning which has been undertaken from each previous restructuring. If the same arguments are being presented, it suggests the previous restructurings failed to achieve their aims (with the exception of a crude reduction in both councils and councillors). Yet the justification for further restructuring hangs upon similar arguments. With each restructuring, there has been a merging of urban and rural local authorities. Little consideration appears to have taken place with regard to the specific needs and requirements of the different geographical areas. Each restructuring has seen a ‘one size fits all’ approach. No thought appears to be given to the role of the local councillor or how a local council interacts with its’ local community. Again, there are very different relationships for urban and rural councils. Mergers of councils appear more like marriages of convenience rather than any other rationale. Bigger is perceived to be better. When that is seen to fail, even bigger councils are proposed. The result of this is the loss of identity of councils and those living under the umbrella of a council, as well as a reduction in democratic participation. It is clear that lesson-learning has not happened with the restructuring of local government in Wales. It is not just a neo-liberal ideological imperative which is leading the attack on local government, these attacks pre-date the advent of neo-liberalism. Instead, there appears to be a clear push towards greater centralisation. Whenever such an attack is seen to fail to deliver more rational local government, the exponents double-down their bets and push for even larger local authorities and fewer councillors. There appears to be no desire to learn from past experiences. Such a perspective applies regardless as to which ‘superior’ tier of government is attempting to manipulate local government structures.
  • Not what they want but what they need: Teaching politics to journalism students
    Not what they want but what they need: Teaching politics to journalism students Clark, Torrin; Jones, Alistair There is an issue around getting students engaged in subject matter about which they may have little interest. Often, such subject matter is essential to their studies. The module Essential Public Affairs is such a concern for students of Journalism. It is essential for their professional qualification. This article explores a pilot project which developed ways to get students more engaged with the subject material. The consequences of such engagement could be seen in the assessment results and the future study choices of those students in the pilot. The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.
  • Restructuring Local Government - It's not just central interference: A case study of Wales
    Restructuring Local Government - It's not just central interference: A case study of Wales Jones, Alistair There is an extensive literature on the different ways in which central government interferes in local government. Within the UK, there appears to be a regular interference, with restructuring in the mid-1970s, the early 1990s, and a seemingly ongoing process over the last decade or so. With a unitary constitution, any government - or, more accurately, any government using its parliamentary majority to push through legislation - can remould or even abolish local government. Yet with the introduction of devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the late 1990s, the newly created 'regional' assemblies and parliament were given varying degrees of power over local government. The Welsh Assembly and Welsh Government were originally given secondary legislative powers in a discrete list of policy sectors, which included local government. After a referendum in 2011, these secondary powers were changed to primary legislative powers. In Wales, there are a number of issues concerning restructuring local government. These include the extent to which it is a party-political concern, with the Labour Party driving the reform agenda, as opposed to a Welsh Government drive. The establishment of the Williams Commission into public sector reform, of which one component was local government, was presented as a public consultation exercise. Yet the extent to which the Williams Report was in line with the position of the Labour Party over local government restructuring needs to be examined. The implementation of the plans to restructure local government in Wales was put on hold until after the 2016 elections to the Welsh Assembly, with the clear plan from the Labour Party of winning a mandate for implementation. Interestingly, local government restructuring was not high on the election agenda. A minority Labour Government was returned to power. No potential coalition partner was willing to run with local government restructuring. For now, that agenda appears to be on hold. This paper will assess the extent to which local government restructuring in Wales is driven from a party political base, as well as from a centralising 'regional' government. Local government restructuring is not always driven from the 'national' centre, but can be driven from a 'regional' centre. Yet there may also be a party-political drive in that region as well. This paper was presented to the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) annual conference at the University of Oslo, 6-9 September 2017
  • What is 'Good Governance'? A Model of 'Good Governance' for restructuring English Local Government
    What is 'Good Governance'? A Model of 'Good Governance' for restructuring English Local Government Jones, Alistair There are many problems when examining the concept of 'good governance'. There are numerous definitions, not all of which are applicable to local government. Often, there is a clear gap in perceptions between the practitioners in local government and the academic literature. There is a need, therefore, to pull together some of the different aspects of 'good governance'. This is part of a study into what is needed to restructure local government in England. The overall study is about trying to develop a model by which any future restructuring of local government can be guided. One aspect of this model is 'good governance'. A clear problem in trying to design such a model is the complexity of English local government. Wilson & Game have described it as "a dog's breakfast". There is no single uniform structure. There are both unitary and tiered authorities across England, some with elected mayors. Local authorities in London have to contend with the London Assembly - which is, effectively, a regional body. When examining what is needed to develop 'good governance', the issue of structures is clearly important. In England there is a mix of tiered and unitary authorities, not all of which appears to make sense. For the most part, the larger urban conurbations are unitary authorities. Yet beyond the structures, there are so many other practicalities to consider. There is the internal management - and again there is no uniformity in England, even across unitary urban authorities - of each local authority. How is the 'politics' carried out? What are the leadership structures of a council? Added to this are the issues around scrutiny - what is scrutinised and how is scrutiny carried out? While there is central government legislation which compels local authorities to have some form of scrutiny arrangements, there is a lack of uniformity in English local government. Within this lack of uniformity are a range of forms of good practice and, arguably, not such good (or effective) practice. Finally, and again with a lack of uniformity across England, are the relationships with other bodies, through, for example, forms of public private partnerships, quangos, and other service delivery agents. What is the role of the council (and councillors) in these relationships? What should the role be? When there are contracts of twenty years or more in length, what becomes of the role of the local authority? In many respects, where councils no longer deliver any services, they have become what Nicholas Ridley (the former-Environment Secretary in the Margaret Thatcher Government of the late 1980s, responsible for local government) termed the 'enabling authority' i.e. they enable other bodies to provide the services and utilise a very light touch form of regulation. This paper is not planning a single uniform system of 'good governance' for English local government. Such an objective is simply not achievable, noting the complexities in English local government. Rather, it is about raising the specific questions and issues which need to be addressed in any future restructuring of local government in England. In effect, it is developing some form of check list. Different councils have differing needs and requirements. Most obviously, urban centres have significantly different demands to non-urban. The emphasis in this paper will be upon the urban councils and the 'good governance' needed for their better management should any future restructuring take place. This paper was presented to the European Urban Research Association (EURA) annual conference at the University of Warsaw, 21-24 June 2017
  • Britain and the European Union
    Britain and the European Union Jones, Alistair The relationship between Britain and the European Union appears to be rather complex. It is often confusing and misunderstood. Some of this is a result of misrepresentation of the relationship in the media. This book examines the relationship in a clear and coherent manner. It highlights different forms of relationship between the EU and the different tiers of government in the UK. A historical context is also presented, to enable a clearer understanding of the relationship and how it has changed over time. The role of the media, political parties, pressure groups and the ever-changing position of public opinion are also evaluated.
  • Contemporary British politics and government.
    Contemporary British politics and government. Cocker, P. G.; Jones, Alistair
  • Where has all the Public Administration gone?
    Where has all the Public Administration gone? Jones, Alistair For many years, concern has been raised about the demise of the teaching of public administration. No longer is the subject taught in its own right as an undergraduate subject in the UK. The emphasis has moved from administration to management. The malaise in the teaching of public administration is such that the subject has almost disappeared. It is time to re-visit the importance of public administration as a taught academic subject, and its importance in many other academic disciplines.

Click here to view a full listing of Alistair Jones' publications and outputs.

Key research outputs

“Where has all the Public Administration gone?”  This won the award for the best paper at the PAC annual conference 18-19 July 2012

Research interests/expertise

European Union, elections, English Parish Councils

Areas of teaching

British Politics

Politics of the European Union

Qualifications

  • BA (Hons) Political Science (Canterbury, New Zealand)
  • MA Political Science (Canterbury, New Zealand

Courses taught

Introduction to British Politics, Politics in Business, Politics of the European Union, Britain and European Integration

Honours and awards

  • Best Paper Award, PAC annual conference, Plymouth, July 2012
  • University Teacher Fellow, DMU, August 2014
  • Long Service Award, DMU, March 2017
  • Research Oscars, Faculty of Business and Law, DMU, for Research Engagement in the Media, July 2019

Membership of external committees

  • Public Administration Committee, member of the Executive Committee since 2008
  • Joint University Council, member of the Executive since 2008
  • European Urban Research Association, member of the Executive Committee since 2019
  • European Consortium for Political Research, member of the Teaching and Learning Executive since 2019

Projects

  • Parish Councils in England
  • Local Government engagement with civil society. I am working on the English part of this European project

Conference attendance

"Independent Politics in Wales: Diverse practices but needing a permanent presence” Paper to the European Urban Research Association (EURA) 2016 Annual Conference, Torino, Italy, 16-18 June 2016

C.Copus and A.Jones; "Restructuring Welsh Local Government: Lesson-learning from New Zealand", European Urban Research Association annual conference, "Transforming cities, transformative cities" University of Lucian Braga in Sibiu, Romania (17-20 September 2015)

T. Clark and A.Jones; "Teaching Public Affairs - the Cinderella Subject of Journalism courses", UK Association for Journalism Educational annual conference - The Future of Journalism Education, University of Greenwich (25-26 June 2015)

T. Clark and A.Jones; "Not what they want but what they need - teaching Politics to Journalism students" Student Transitions - the Triad of Understanding Learning and Teaching conference, De Montfort University (3 September 2014)

PAC annual conference (Plymouth 18-19 July 2012).  “Where has all the Public Administration gone?”  This won the award for the best paper at the conference

PAC annual conference (Edinburgh 9-11 September 2013).  Presented a paper entitled "Junior Ministers: Are they really political eunuchs?"

Key research outputs

Copus, C. and Jones, A. 'Welsh Local Government Association Literature Review on Council Size: Commission on Public Service Governance & Delivery Service Provider Consultation'

Consultancy work

Worked with the Council of Europe to advise the Parliament of Ukraine on ethics and accountability in local government, 2017; compiled a literature review to inform the Welsh Local Government Association's submission to the Williams Committee on public sector governance and delivery, 2014. Currently available

Current research students

  • Rachel Wall, full time, second supervisor
  • Lynn Wyeth, part-time, second supervisor

Media work

Below are some of my most recent media appearance:

21 October 2019 – RT UK, where I discussed issues around Brexit. Available at https://twitter.com/rtuknews/status/1186660983638581248?s=12&fbclid=IwAR3U7EouNIrdQouGuKJg3YJXUhdk5ME9H_JXMN7ivHan6YxOzYlAkGQKAxI

17 October 2019 – Radio Sputnik, where I discussed the Queen’s Speech, Brexit and the EU summit. Available at https://sputniknews.com/europe/201910171077076977-whatever-happens-the-issue-of-remain-or-leave-has-split-the-country---professor/

15 October 2019 – RT France, on their <vu de l’extrieur> programme where I discussed a range of issues around the Queen’s Speech and Brexit. Available at https://twitter.com/rtenfrancais/status/1184417537901117445?s=12&fbclid=IwAR1epusnm4lPIu9d7XO7Zcv_q5x0TY-AtU44b22P2M-HtPQJkEkrDhTykWA

8 October 2019 – RT UK, where I discusses a range of topical issues around Brexit. Available at https://twitter.com/rtuknews/status/1181904642923520000?s=12&fbclid=IwAR3bHI9Ix_OZLY5YFfzfwjvnASv2Vz2Z2RRmPNQwKDDQMSu-VQ2E464IHc0

6 October 2019 – East Midlands Politics Show on the BBC, where I was interviewed about the difficulties in keeping up to date when teaching Politics in the current environment

ORCID number

orcid.org/0000-0002-4540-563X

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