Contemporary Wales, 26(1), pp 205-223

This paper explores the ways in which managers of organizations delivering services to the public in Wales talk about and conceptualize the publics using these services. Topics covered in interviews with these stakeholders include: local democracy; responsibility; behavioural shifts; citizen participation; local specificities; responses to devolution. The themes are analysed in the context of neoliberal welfare reform and the impending financial crisis. The authors review the implicit assumptions in the data. They compare the results of the analysis with wider debates about the erosion of state accountability in relation to rights of citizens and explore the degree to which the views of the stakeholders equate with John Clarke’s (2005) ‘New Labour’s Citizens; activated, empowered, responsibilized, abandoned?’ The discussion engages with the question of whether policies in Wales since devolution have promoted a more positive approach to citizenship and participation than in Clarke’s dystopian description.