New Century Local Government

New Century Local Government

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Commonwealth Secretariat
30 Sep 2013
9781848591493 (PDF)

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Democratic decentralisation through ‘conventional’ institutions of local government is facing increasing challenges, whether from financial pressures, questions of representativeness, difficult central-local relations and from a perhaps growing belief that local government has failed to realise its potential and there may be better ways of achieving societal goals. It is clear there is need to contemplate quite radical change to ensure local government becomes or remains ‘fit for purpose’.

This collection of papers illustrates the way in which the role of local government is evolving in different parts of the Commonwealth and provides practical examples of new local government at work. It showcases emerging practice, and highlights success stories from new ways of working and challenges confronting local government in both developed and developing countries.

New Century Local Government makes a very valuable contribution to helping understand the changing role of local government, and will ensure that practitioners are up-to-date with the most innovative initiatives in local government planning and administration.

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  • Foreword and Acknowledgements

    Research and policy investigations are important components of the Commonwealth Secretariat governance work that contribute to informed decisions taken by Commonwealth policy-makers. Our policy research on local governance not only outlines choices for member governments, but also endeavours to provide cuttingedge evidence for the design, implementation, and review of public policies, thereby contributing to broader development goals. The Secretariat portfolio of publications on local government includes four volumes under the Local Government Reform Series .

  • Abbreviations, acronyms and List of contributors
  • Introduction

    In 2009 the Research Advisory Group of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) came together for its biennial research colloquium in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Local Government Conference. Discussion was shaped by an awareness not only of the many challenges facing local authorities across the Commonwealth, but also of underlying changes in the nature and perceptions of the fundamental role of local government. The latter reflected a number of drivers, including globalisation and economic imperatives; decentralisation policies and the evident failings of central governments to deliver desired outcomes at local and regional levels; the emergence of ever-larger metropolitan centres; fiscal constraints following the global financial crisis; and the need for local government to contribute more substantially to the delivery of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Decentralisation, localism and intergovernment relations

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    • Democratic Decentralisation in the Commonwealth Caribbean

      Local government reform in the Commonwealth Caribbean1 is a manifestation of experimentation with democratic decentralisation or ‘democratic local governance’ (Blair 2000), which is sweeping political and administrative systems worldwide. Central to the debate is the identification of a ‘democratic deficit’ and a general consensus that greater citizen activism and more responsive state institutions are positively correlated (Gaventa 2004; Narayan et al. 2000; Commonwealth Foundation 1999; Ward et al. 2010).

    • Pakistan's Devolution of Power Plan

      Local government is not a new concept in Pakistan. Since the founding of the country in 1947, Pakistan has always had local governments as the lowest-tier political structure. However, grassroots democracy has been eclipsed at different times in the country’s history. As we write this chapter, there is no elected local government in Pakistan. The chapter documents the recent history of decentralisation and local government in Pakistan, with special reference to the ‘Devolution of Power Plan’ (DOPP) introduced by the military government of General Pervez Musharraf in 2001. The author was closely involved with the DOPP at both the policy and implementation levels.

    • Decentralisation and Community Budgeting in England

      The United Kingdom has been described as the most centralised country in Europe: in 2005, the UK’s local authorities raised only 17 per cent of their income from local taxation compared with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average of 55 per cent (Blöchliger and Petzold 2009). While the smaller devolved nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have received significant delegated authority over the past 15 years, England has retained its centralised balance of power. This chapter assesses recent reform initiatives designed to redress this imbalance.

    • Ironic Localism and a Critical History of English ‘Reform'

      There are two particular challenges in writing about the outlook for twenty-first century local government in England, and the forces that may come into play, especially with the implication that we are drawing lessons which might benefit local government in the rest of the Commonwealth. The first is to avoid seeking to pre-empt events and foresee trends that stretch into the future, inevitably beyond our own existences. The second is to resist the temptation to describe our own time as somehow historically special; a stage of history at which our successors’ destiny will be decided.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Local government finance and economic development

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    • Toward a System of Municipal Finance for Twenty-first Century India

      This chapter is set in the context of two major initiatives to strengthen local government in India: the 74th Constitution Amendment Act 1992, part of an overall decentralisation strategy which aims at empowering municipalities; and the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), a central government initiative designed to impart greater efficiency and transparency in the functioning of urban local governments. The two initiatives mark a step forward for municipalities to meet the contemporary challenges of growth, urbanisation and improved service delivery. Positioned in this context, the chapter

    • Property Rates as an Instrument for Development: An Analysis of South African Policy, Law and Practice

      When local governments impose property taxes, their primary objective is to fund their expenditure. However, the role of local government can be seen as far more than simply the provision of local public services. Local government can be an agent of its community, responsible for using its authority in a manner that creatively responds to local needs and thereby enhances the well-being of its area. This chapter asks if this interpretation of the role of municipalities has consequences for the manner in which they tax properties.

    • Municipal Partnerships for Prosperity: Empowering the Working Poor

      This chapter addresses the crucial relationship between local government and the urban informal economy, both to support local economic development and in the fight against poverty. The chapter focuses on street vending as one of the most visible and contested domains of the informal economy, which the author has studied over many years (see, for example, Brown 2006; 2010; Brown et al. 2010).

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts New approaches to governance

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    • New Pathways to Effective Regional Governance: Canadian Reflections

      Across the globe, there is considerable interest in federated local government systems (Slack 2007; Fahim 2009). In the Canadian province of British Columbia (BC), institutions for federated regional governance – known as regional districts (RDs) – date back more than four decades. When established, RDs were not viewed as ‘governments’, but were heralded merely as forums to reduce the transaction costs of inter-local co-operation for mutual benefit in service delivery. This chapter initially examines these institutions, explaining why regional districts on the whole have been successful with their service delivery mission.

    • Long-term Strategic Planning in New Zealand

      Strategic planning is a management tool introduced during the recent period of public sector reform intended to improve the efficacy and efficiency of public organisations. Councils in New Zealand, like elsewhere, were quick and enthusiastic adopters and a range of innovative approaches was developed. However, 20 years on, that innovation is at risk of being lost because of an increasing emphasis on accountability and compliance.1 Long-term council planning is required to address multiple objectives, with the risk that ‘strategy’ will be crowded out. It is not clear whether the emphasis on accountability and financial planning allows sufficient space for innovative engagement with citizens about possible futures.

    • The Role of Local Authority Companies: Lessons from New Zealand

      This chapter explores the potential for greater use of local authority-owned companies and other council-controlled, arm’s-length entities to manage local government assets and services. It looks at the opportunities, risks and implications for accountability and local democracy, with an emphasis on arrangements for post-incorporation governance. These are considered not just from the conventional perspective of good corporate governance including risk management, but also in terms of how they can contribute to strengthening local democracy and community participation in decision-making.

    • The Evolving Role of Mayors: An Australian Perspective

      This final chapter1 revisits some of the principal themes of this book through the lens of the role of mayors. In so doing it reflects Quirk’s (2011: 137) view that: Elected politicians set the tone for public institutions. The style and substance of their leadership is central to how public institutions are viewed by their staff, their service users and their stakeholders. Their conduct and their behaviour set the atmosphere, the microclimate in which the institution functions. Their role in governing the institution is vital – they lead, they speak for the public, and they choose direction and strategy. They set the intent of policy and they also choose the instrument of policy. They decide what is to be done and often how it is to be done.

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