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This paper focuses on whether public service provision serves the needs of disadvantaged neighbourhoods in the UK. It summarises evidence from a study of street-cleaning services in the UK, which shows that resource allocation does not always follow needs – even at a time when there was public spending growth and the needs of deprived neighbourhoods were to the fore – and that it can be skewed to better-off areas, making service-provision actually part of the problem for residents in these neighbourhoods. The author argues that, although today’s austerity presents significant challenges for those who wish to protect the most vulnerable, it may still be possible to find ways to deliver services which do not simply reinforce inequality. This paper is part of a series of papers which have resulted from the Whose Economy? seminar series, held in Scotland in 2010 – 2011, whose purpose was to provide a space for researchers, representative organisations, policy-makers and people with experience of poverty to come together and explore the causes of poverty and inequality in today’s Scotland.

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