Local Government in Liberal Democracies: An Introductory Survey

By J. A. Chandler | Go to book overview

Chapter 2

England and Wales

John Kingdom

The United Kingdom consists of four countries, England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Local government in Scotland and Northern Ireland exhibits certain differences from that in England and Wales, which, though not great, would render some of the generalisations made in this chapter invalid. For this reason the study is confined to England and Wales.

Britain, as a constitutional monarchy, formally consolidates the authority of the state at the centre through a doctrine of Parliamentary sovereignty. The British Parliament is a bicameral assembly, though effective power is restricted to the House of Commons, the popularly elected chamber. The electoral system provides for territorial representation of the country through some 650 constituencies, each returning a single member on the basis of a simple plurality. Thus, members of the House can be said to articulate the interests of the localities at the capital though it remains questionable how far, in practice, this amounts to an effective form of areal representation. There are, in fact, several theories suggesting what representation in Parliament actually means in the context of the British constitution, and the idea that members represent their constituencies as geographically defined entities is but one model among several.

Though formed on a basis of spatial representation, the constitutionally sovereign assembly, for a number of reasons, effectively subscribes to a unitary power structure, which has its legal origins in the highly centralised institution of the monarchy and is buttressed by the modern party system. As a result it can do little to represent the interests of the localities as such, presenting an environment which is legally and politically inhospitable to local government per se.

The Cabinet with the Prime Minister is the Head of Government and nominally the chief agent of policy making. However, the Cabinet does not decide all policy issues and it plays only a small part in the process of

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Local Government in Liberal Democracies: An Introductory Survey
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures and Tables vi
  • Preface vii
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 1
  • Bibliography 6
  • Chapter 2 - England and Wales 7
  • Bibliography 27
  • Chapter 3 - The Republic of Ireland 28
  • Chapter 4 - France 53
  • Chapter 5 - Italy 73
  • Bibliography 98
  • Chapter 6 - Germany 99
  • Bibliography 117
  • Chapter 7 - Sweden 118
  • Chapter 8 - The United States of America 138
  • Bibliography 158
  • Chapter 9 - Canada 159
  • Chapter 10 - Conclusion 188
  • Bibliography 200
  • Index 201
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