Partnership and participation have co-evolved as key instruments of New Labour's agenda for the 'modernisation' and 'democratic renewal' of British local government. It is often assumed that partnerships are more inclusive than bureaucratic or market-based approaches to policy-making and service delivery. This article argues that partnership working does not in itself deliver enhanced public participation; indeed, it may be particularly difficult to secure citizen involvement in a partnership context. The article explores the relationship between partnership and participation in a wide range of local initiatives, exemplifying difficulties as well as synergies. The article concludes that public participation needs to be designed-in to local partnerships, not assumed-in. A series of principles for the design of more participative local partnerships is proposed.