About Levels of Government
What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of UK Local Government
The advantages are:
- Local authorities are able to adapt to local needs and react quickly to local problems than central government.
- Councillors and officers have an understanding of the local area and can tailor policies to that area.
- It is likely to be more efficient to run services locally than manage them from the centre.
- Local councils can play an important role in bringing together the private sector, voluntary organisations and other public bodies to make sure things happen.
Different local authorities have been able to innovate and produce new ideas. These can be copied by others.
For example, a conservative council in Southend pioneered the idea of using a private firm for refuse collection. They found it meant lower costs. This idea was taken up by Mrs Thatcher’s Government. Also, the Labour council in Lambeth involved people with mental health issues in redesigning the services that they use.
A Direct Voice
Local government is closer to the public and allows them to have a more direct voice in the running of services.
People can vote according to how well the council is run and councils can carry out local referenda and consultations to allow local people to express their views.
Councillors live nearby and so it is easier for voters to see them.
Politicians gain knowledge and experience
Local government allows people from the political parties to gain experience in politics and knowledge of issues such as transport, education and social care.
As well as becoming experienced local politicians they may become Members of Parliament.
Local government provides an alternative path into national politics and produces people with more understanding of real world issues.
- A postcode lottery. For example, it may be easier to get housed in social housing in one area than another.
- Party politics gets in the way. It could be argued that party politics is not relevant at the local level. Decisions over local services should be made in terms of what is best overall.
- Political parties may have fixed views or may be captured by particular local interests such as small shopkeepers or tenants’ associations.
- It is difficult to recruit capable people as Councillors at the local level. Although Cabinet members and Mayors receive a full-time payment other Councillors do not.
The funding of local government from local resources has always been controversial.
The poorest areas are likely to require higher levels of spending on many services but the tax revenue from these areas is less than in wealthier areas. Central government has always had to redistribute resources. This means that there is little local accountability over spending as central government largely decides what is available.
People mostly relate to the neighbourhoods and small towns and villages where they live. Although it may be cheaper to organise many services over a larger geographical area, it could be argued that local government can stifle local initiatives for the provision of services by local voluntary groups.