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Local government in Britain since 1800

This book presents a history of local government in Britain from 1800 until the present day. It explains how local government in Britain has evolved from a structure that appeared to be relatively free from central government interference to, as John Prescott observes, ‘one of the most centralised systems of government in the Western world’. The book is an introduction to the development of local government in Britain but also balances values and political practice in relation to the evolving structures to provide a theory of the evolution of the system. It analyses local government prior to 1832 and its subsequent development into the uniform two-tier structures of the twentieth century. The book argues that the emergence of a ‘New Liberal’ national welfare state and, by the 1920s, the growth of the Labour Party, created pressures within central government to control local governments. This has led, post-1945, to the creation of larger, less-local units, and to further restraints on local autonomy, as electoral competition among National Parties to offer better public services and local economic growth ensures that national leaders cannot leave local authorities to administer to local needs as they see fit. The conclusion compares the development of British centralism with the pattern of central–local development, as well as the relative conservatism in re-structuring the systems in the United States and France.

5 Restructuring local government Few across the British political spectrum were satisfied with the evolution of the local government system following the 1832 Reform Act. While municipal government could lead the way to reform, the system could not evolve in rural areas because of the lack of any workable consensus in Parliament that could establish multi-purpose local government structures. The legislative compromises and resultant ad hoc developments were creating as complex a pattern of local government in rural areas and small towns as existed in the

in Explaining local government

1 Local government before 1832 There is little left of the Roman administrative legacy for the provinces of Britain. Towns were established under Roman practice as coloniae and municipium for retired soldiers who were granted citizenship of the Empire.1 Other townships, civitates, established by Britons were recognised as following local tribal laws:2 ‘A large measure of local government was conducted by the British themselves with official supervision and encouragement.’3 All that remains of the Roman legacy are some of the towns themselves, including London

in Explaining local government

4 Municipal government to its zenith The 1835 Act enabled but did not compel industrial towns to establish municipal corporations let alone develop the publicly owned infrastructure that by 1900 made the governments of the larger cities such as Birmingham, Glasgow or Manchester into complex bureaucracies closely intertwined with the commercial and social life of their communities. The status and influence of the great industrial towns were signalled by the magnificence of the town halls built as clubs for the industrial and commercial elites who comprised the

in Explaining local government

13 Accounting for the evolution of local government in Britain There is no single factor that accounts for the distancing of the British system of local government from that of France or the USA. The evolution of the British system can be explained as an accretion of changes that have accumulated over the last 200 years and most significantly between 1900 and 1920. In 1832 the structure of sub-national government in Britain, although by no means a replica of the system in France or the USA was, nevertheless, far more comparable than is the case 175 years later

in Explaining local government

Minority governance has been dismissed as an aberration, an interlude between 'normal' and 'victorious' administrations, which have commanded the interest of politicians, political analysts and the general public. This book is a study that challenges these myths and established perceptions of minority government in the 1970s through a reading of declassified internal government and party files. It demonstrates that there is a distinctive 'British tradition of minority government' that provides a new perspective on the existing corpus of international theory regarding the subject. One of the single greatest myths arising from these sources of coverage, such as interviews, biographies , and political diaries and memoirs is that outside events superseded those in Parliament. The book questions this myth and shows that the strategy-making processes in the Labour and the Conservative Parties were geared towards minority government. It has often been assumed that the formation of the Wilson and Callaghan Minority Governments were inevitable, histories mainly concentrating on changes in personnel and policy. This long-standing myth is challenged by examining the prospect of alternative not adopted, including early elections or interparty coalitions. The book then questions the myths of 1970s minority governments' inability to pass significant legislation without the cooperation of opposition parties. It also explores the myths surrounding the inevitability and form of this 1977-78 Lib-Lab Pact. Myths about 1970s elections and Labour and Conservative post-electoral plans are discussed next. Finally, the book considers how the June 2017 minority government at Westminster may affect planning for future indecisive election.

Labour and cultural change

This book is the first in the new series The Labour Governments 1964–70 and concentrates on Britain's domestic policy during Harold Wilson's tenure as Prime Minister. It deals, in particular, with how the Labour government and Labour party as a whole tried to come to terms with the 1960's cultural revolution. The book is grounded in original research, takes account of responses from Labour's grass roots and from Wilson's ministerial colleagues, and constructs a total history of the party at this critical moment in history. It situates Labour in its wider cultural context and focuses on how the party approached issues such as the apparent transformation of the class structure, the changing place of women in society, rising immigration, the widening generation gap, and increasing calls for direct participation in politics. Together with the other volumes in the series, on international policy and economic policy, the book provides an insight into the development of Britain under Harold Wilson's government.

A comparative guide
Series: Understandings

Political systems are shaped by the societies in which they function. For this reason, it is helpful to know something about the historical, geographical, social and economic settings against which they operate. It is also helpful to understand something of the values and ideas which have mattered and continue to matter to those who inhabit any individual country. This book examines the background factors that help to shape the way in which political life and processes operate in Britain and America. In particular, it examines the similarities and differences in the political culture of the countries. Constitutions describe the fundamental rules according to which states are governed, be they embodied in the law, customs or conventions. Liberties and rights are of especial concern in liberal democracies, which claim to provide a broad range of them. The book examines the protection of liberties in both countries, in particular the right of freedom of expression. In advanced Western democracies, the media perform a major role. The book deals with the impact on political life of the two major mass media: the press and television. Elections are the main mechanism for expressing the public's collective desires about who should be in government and what the government should do. The book examines a number of issues about the functioning of elections in two democracies, looking at the electoral system, and the way in which voters behave and the influence upon their voting.

An uneasy relationship?

Drawing extensively on recently released documents and private papers, this is the first extensive book-length study to examine the intimate relationship between the Attlee government and Britain’s intelligence and security services. Often praised for the formation of the modern-day ‘welfare state’, Attlee’s government also played a significant, if little understood, role in combatting communism at home and overseas, often in the face of vocal, sustained, opposition from their own backbenches. Beneath Attlee’s calm exterior lay a dedicated, if at times cautious, Cold War warrior, dedicated to combatting communism at home and overseas. This study tells the story of Attlee’s Cold War. At home, the Labour government implemented vetting to protect Whitehall and other areas of the Cold War state from communists, while, overseas, Attlee and his Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin authorised a series of highly secret special operations in Eastern Europe, designed to erode Soviet influence, told here for the first time in significant detail. More widely, Ministers also strengthened Imperial and Commonwealth security and, responding to a series of embarrassing spy scandals, tried to revive Britain’s vital nuclear transatlantic ‘special relationship’ with Washington. This study is essential reading for anyone interested in the Labour Party, intelligence, security and Britain’s foreign and defence policy at the start of the Cold War.

NATO strategy, détente and European integration

Speaking at West Point in 1962, Dean Acheson observed that Britain had lost an empire and had still to find a new role. This book explains why, as Britain's Labour government contemplated withdrawal from east of Suez, ministers came to see that Britain's future role would be as a force within Europe and that, to this end, and to gain entry into the European Economic Community, a close relationship with the Federal Republic of Germany would be essential. This account of Anglo-German relations during the 1960s reveals insights into how both governments reacted to a series of complex issues and why, despite differences that might have led to strains, a good understanding was maintained. Its approach brings together material covering NATO strategy, détente and European integration. The main argument of the book is reinforced by material drawn from British and German primary sources covering the period as a whole, from interviews with some of Harold Wilson's key advisers and from newspaper reports, as well as from a wide range of secondary publications. The introduction of material from German sources adds to its authenticity. The book contributes to what we know about Cold War history, and should help to redefine some of the views about the relationship between Britain and Germany during the 1960s.