Through a comparative case study analysis of the restructuring practices of six large UK local authorities, this article finds that although macro-level fiscal pressures are a trigger for cutbacks clear differences can be found between local level restructuring ‘bundles’. These differences are explained by the local power dynamics between politicians, trade unions and management. A radical marketization approach of outsourcing and hostility towards the trade unions at one Conservative-controlled council is contrasted to a political partnership approach at two Labour councils which delivered a living wage and minimised job losses and outsourcing. Two ‘hybrid’ models of incremental marketisation and pragmatic partnership saw the remaining councils trying to balance cost minimisation and stable employment relations by making more incremental changes. However, the cumulative effect of repeated cutbacks could yet prove to be transformative for the public sector.