The role of local government in a modern state

Document type
Murray, James
Centre for Labour and Social Studies
Date of publication
1 September 2014
Policy paper
Social Policy
Social welfare
Material type

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This paper highlights how, despite the Coalition's determination to restrict local government's influence and competencies through severe budget cuts and other changes, some town halls have responded by instead taking a more active role and promoting collective solutions. It looks at what councils are currently doing to consider where local government is best-placed to innovatively tackle local problems: building homes; regulating the private-rented sector; streamlining services by bringing them in-house; tackling low pay; improving education; using collective purchasing power; and so on. In using these examples as the basis of an argument for the devolution of further power and resources, this paper avoids arguing for an arbitrary shift of power and resources to local government – indeed it asserts that many provisions of the welfare state are better maintained and guaranteed through national government. It argues instead for local government to take the lead where its unique role is evident – chiefly where local government is the best level for power to be exercised; where it is ahead of the curve in responding to local needs; or where councils are the only bodies who can act effectively.

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