The Next Ten Years in British Social and Economic Policy

By G. D. H. Cole | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV
LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Four reasons for the breakdown of the British system of Local Government —Changes in the distribution of population—The unsoundness of local rates—The reactions of unemployment—The development of road transport—The Conservative De-rating scheme considered—Its effects on local finances—Block versus percentage grants—The reform of the Poor Law—Highway administration—The case against the de-rating proposals —Unfairness to householders and traders—De-rating virtually a subsidy —Not needed by prosperous industries—The new Government grant scheme unfair in its effects—Block grants an instrument of reaction— The future of the Poor Law—A half-hearted reform—Unemployment and the Poor Law—Roads and the Road Fund—Further reforms of the rating system—The case for a combination of block and percentage grants —The redistribution of Poor Law functions—The problem of powers— Wanted: a Local Authorities Enabling Act—The future of municipal trading—The problem of areas—Town and country in Local Government—Housing problems—Town-planning and region-planning—The government of London—The case for Regionalism—First steps towards regional organisation—Electricity and region-planning—The classification of urban areas—The reform of local finance—The District Auditor and his powers—The growth of central control—Need for administrative devolution—The future of regional government.

The British system of local government, which even before the War was admitted to stand sorely in need of amendment, has during the past ten years been steadily breaking down. For this there are four main causes, each in itself important enough to make necessary a drastic revision of the system. In the first place, the existing areas of local government are obviously, for many purposes, obsolete. Since they were adopted, the effective configuration of the country has radically changed. Population has become far more concentrated in and around large urban areas; the ease of communication has greatly increased; changes in industrial technique have made larger units of production and service indispensable in many of the vital

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