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About Levels of Government

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How has the UK Local Government changed the way it works?

Local authorities now provide less services themselves. They are instead responsible for managing contracts to run services by the private sector and sometimes by voluntary organisations.

Services may be run more cheaply but there is a loss of control by elected councillors and a reduction in local accountability.

With less direct control over services such as housing and education, UK local government plays a broader coordinating role than in the past. It brings together different organisations and interests to ensure change happens.

This has been called UK local ‘governance’ rather than UK local government.  For example, tackling excessive drinking at night in town centres will require bringing together the police, the pubs and clubs, the local hospital and using the local authorities powers to grant licences.

Changing public attitudes have affected local government. People expect to be consulted and involved. Local authorities have, therefore, tried to be more open about how decisions are taken.

People may also see themselves more as consumers and, just as they will not accept poor standards in the goods that they buy in the shops, they will expect high standards in local services.  In both these areas, UK local government has made more use of information technology to provide information and interact with the public.

The 2010 Coalition Government promoted a Localism agenda with new legislation.  Local groups or town and parish councils were able to bid to run services. For example, they could take over a local library, or acquire public buildings that were no longer needed or draw up their own local development plan. Local authorities have had to learn to work at the neighbourhood level and help these groups.