Presentation on theme: "Readings: Norton CH 10 Dunleavy CH 2. What is unitary government? How has local government evolved in the UK? What is the relationship between the local."— Presentation transcript:
What is unitary government? How has local government evolved in the UK? What is the relationship between the local and central governments in the UK?
Democracies vary in the extent to which they centralize political authority. Tradeoffs between empowering the center vs. empowering the regions are key. Regional autonomy can be used as a basis for further autonomy or independence. Can identify three different ways to disperse authority. Confederation, federalism, and unitary government.
1) State is divided between a central government and regional or sub national governments. 2) Institutional powers are allocated between these levels of government. 3) The levels possess at least some degree of autonomy from one another. Example of a more consensual rather than a majoritarian political structure.
Rokkan and Urwin: Defines unitary government as “built up around one unambiguous center of power…All areas of the state are treated alike, and all institutions are directly under the control of the centre.” UK offered as a textbook case of unitary government. UK is not a model of perfect unitary government. Scottish courts and Northern Irish assembly enjoy some autonomy.
Government can decide to devolve authority to the regions; but it also has the authority to rescind these powers. Norton: “Devolved governments have no constitutional right to exist…[but] they have a legal right to do so, unless Parliament revokes that right” The existence of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly appears solid: 1) Devolution established by referendum 2) Parliament would not want to encourage Scottish or Welsh nationalists to push for independence 3) Judicial institutions finding in favor of devolved institutions could embarrass governments. But the possibility that Parliament could rescind authority is suggestive of unitary government, not federalism.
Rooted in 6 th century politics: dividing England into shires, counties, etc. under Anglo Saxons. Local governments predate central government and Parliament. Used by William I to consolidate hold on territory in 1066. 13 th -14 th century: royal charters allowed local governments to raise taxes, repair roads, etc. Industrial Revolution shifted the population to urban centers, placing great burdens on the localities.
Expansion of the suffrage highlighted the need for a stronger central government and more local government accountability. 1834: Allowed for the election of local office holders to attend to local needs. Golden Age (1830-1920): local governments expand Expansion did not worry central government.
20 th century: role of the central government expands Local governments assist with policy implementation. 1930-1979: As welfare state expands, central governments begin to reign in local governments. Social welfare programs require tighter oversight. Local governments are no longer self funding. Thatcher (1979-1990): disdain for local government obvious. Push for privatization weakened local governments. Blair (1997-2007): “Modernization” process further weakened local autonomy. Local governments should compete with public sector to provide services.
Over 22,000 elected councilors work at the local government level. Local councils could be eradicated by law; unlikely to occur however. 1) Allows for a more targeted implementation of resources. Councilors have some discretion in implementing national directives. 2) Local politicians are better placed to apply resources and policies than Whitehall. 3) Local elections facilitate a “culture of democracy” That said, local government works under greater constraints today than has ever been the case.
Council elections are held on a staggered basis. Low turnout (36%) generally favors the opposition. Elections included: 137 local councils in England 22 local councils in Wales Greater London Authority.
Conservatives gained 257 councilors; won control of 12 new councils. Labour lost 334 councilors; lost control of 9 councils. Liberal Democrats gained 33 seats and 1 council. BNP and Greens also won councilors. Conservatives have their largest number of councilors (9,900) since 1985. Labour has their lowest level (5,300) since local government councils were re-organized in 1973. Liberal Dems number increased in 2008 (4,500); lower than 1996 high water mark.
Extrapolating these numbers to the national level would give: Conservatives 43% Labour 24% Liberal Democrats 23%. Equivalent to a 9% swing. Conservative MAJ of between 75 to 138 seats.
London Mayor elected since 2000. Accountable to a twenty- five member council. Collectively referred to as the Greater London Authority. Responsibilities include: city planning, transportation, police/fire services etc.
Turnout 44.6%. Mayoral contest was seen as the marquee race. Boris Johnson defeated Mayor Ken Livingstone. Conservatives and Labour gained seats on the council; Liberal Democrats lost seats. BNP won a seat.
Held through local councils in England. Coincided with elections to the EP. Another loss for Labour. Conservatives 38% (+244) Liberal Democrats 28% (-2) Labour 23% (-291)
Local governments are severely constrained in their ability to act autonomously. Local elections are generally seen as bellwether elections. Governments typically lose seats in these elections. Smaller parties and independents also fare well. e.g. Stuart Drummond (a.k.a. H’Angus the Monkey) Labour has not gained seats in local elections since 2001. A very small gain following years of losses since 1997 election. Conservatives have gained in every recent local election. Conservatives advocate restoring authority to the localities. But it is unclear whether or not local councils will be the beneficiary should they win.
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