This paper is a product of the ESRC’s Local Governance research programme which considers the employment implications of the introduction of market forces into the provision of local government services in the United Kingdom. It discusses the fragmentation of labour markets as both a process and outcome of the commercialization of local service provision. In contrast to privatization scenarios, marketization suggests the blurring of the distinction between public and private employment deriving from the commercialization of municipal services and the transmission of local authority work organization and culture into the private sector. An assessment of employment change, workforce recomposition and bargaining capacity is offered which leads to the development of new models for institutional restructuring. ‘Sectoral de‐differentiation’ is a concept developed to address the evolution of new labour market patterns and a ‘public capsule’ model is offered to explain the locality and service variations in marketization outcomes.