Centralisation, Devolution and the Future of Local Government in England: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Centralisation, Devolution and the Future of Local Government in England

1st Edition

By Steve Leach, John Stewart, George Jones


180 pages

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Paperback: 9781138222380
pub: 2017-08-01
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English local government is in a state of decline after 40 years of incremental but cumulative centralisation by central government.

This book is the first to directly address this trend's impact upon the institution of local government, a crucial element in the democratic viability of a unitary state. The process of centralisation, and its corrosive effect on the status and responsibilities of local government, have been widely recognised and deplored among politicians and senior officers within local government, and by academics with an interest in this field. However, there has been no study exploring in detail its impact, and, equally important, suggesting ways in which the growing imbalance between the powers of central and local government should be rectified. This book fills this gap.

This text will be of key interest to scholars, students and practitioners of local government, and more generally to those interested in what has been happening to British politics and governance.


‘‘Timely’ is an overused word, but not in relation to this excellent book. The case for a more devolved and decentralised country is even stronger after the EU referendum vote. Power should not be hoarded in Westminster and Whitehall, but available at the sub-national level. Here is the reasoned case for a such a change.’ – Tony Travers, London School of Economics, UK.

‘The three leading scholars of English local government challenge us to recognise the substantial shift in authority from local communities to Westminster and Whitehall over recent decades. This book offers a rigorous critique of that centralisation and an alternative localist vision for the future governance of the UK. It is an essential read for anyone interested in giving communities new opportunities to shape their futures.’ - Chris Skelcher, University of Birmingham, UK.

‘The book is written by three towering figures in local government academia and provides a wide-ranging analysis of what currently ails local government. The book is a timely reminder for why we have local government and it provides a solid exploration of its purpose and contribution to the fabric of governance. The book unpicks the ‘myth of localism’ and provides comprehensive analysis of the changes necessary for local government to take its rightful place as a partner in government. A book for scholars, students, practitioners and policy-makers. It is with great sadness that Professor George Jones passed away before the publication of this book. But his contribution to it and academia is of great international renown. He will be missed.’ – Colin Copus, De Montfort University, UK.

'It is an important book. It should be read by contemporary councillors, council officials, civil servants, parliamentarians and ministers, and by commentators. And it should be a rallying call for those of us who share its authors' passion for local government. It is also a great tribute to George Jones.' - John Tizard, Huffington Post UK.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Plight of Local Government and Central-Local Relations

Part I: The Current Situation

1. The Justification for Local Government

2. How the Past can inform the Present; Five Stages in the Development of Local Government

3. The Myth of Localism

4. Central-Local Relations: An Interpretation

Part II: Moving Forward

5. The Need for Constitutional Change

6. Rethinking Local Government Finance

7. Politics, Parties and local Democracy

8. Central-Local Relations and Local Government Reorganisation

9. The Devolution Agenda

10. Reflections and Conclusions

About the Authors

Steve Leach worked at the Institute of Local Government Studies (INLOGOV) from 1977 to 1996, by which time he held the position of Reader. He was then appointed Professor of Local Government at De Montfort University, UK, a position he held until his retirement in 2009, and still holds on an Emeritus basis.

John Stewart joined the Institute of Local Government Studies (INLOGOV) at the University of Birmingham, UK, in 1966, and became Professor of Local Government in the early 1970s, a position he held until he retired in the late 1990s, and now holds on an Emeritus basis. He was a member of the Layfield committee on Local Government Finance (1974-1976), and has contributed to many other government inquiries.

George Jones joined the London School of Economics (LSE) in 1966 and was appointed Professor of Government in 1976, a position he held until his retirement in 2007 and which he later held on an Emeritus basis. He, too, was a member of the Layfield Committee and gave evidence to a range of other government inquiries.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in British Politics

This series aims to engage experts in the fields of UK politics, political history and public policy-making whilst addressing a wide array of political dynamics, contexts, histories and ideas. Many of the current major political trends and issues - such as the long-term impact of Brexit, the implications of political disenchantment, the surge in party membership, growing constitutional strains on the UK, and the unbalanced nature of formal political participation in terms of class, gender and ethnicity - are major challenges to political elites.

The series will retain a particular focus on British government, British politics and public policy, while locating those issues within a European and global context. Its will aim to:

  • Promote research excellence with regards to British politics, including interdisciplinary collaboration.
  • Disseminate relevant knowledge widely.
  • Engage and inform the public debate about the nature of British politics.
  • Contribute towards the development of public policy.
  • Stimulate innovation in teaching and research.

The series will initially focus on five core areas: 

  • Political thought and ideology: the dynamics of ideological change within and outside political parties; mapping the interplay of ideology and policy; debating different ideological traditions in British politics; and considering the impact of new forms of critical political thought
  • British party politics: how different parties in British politics are responding to new electoral, organizational and policy challenges.
  • Remodelling the UK polity: (De)Europeanization, devolution, and multi-level governance are promoting new national projects while delegating and dispersing powers from the centre through a ‘new localism’.
  • Managing the public household: including regulation, industrial policy, the economics of austerity, and politics beyond the crisis.  
  • Society and State: citizen-focused public policy, digital politics, the relationship between parliament and citizens, the politics of gender, civic participation, populism, immigration and culture, declining public trust, and the politics of public expectations.

For guidance on how to structure your proposal, please visit: www.routledge.com/info/authors

Book proposals should be sent to the series editors:

Series editors:

Patrick Diamond, Queen Mary University, London p.diamond@qmul.ac.uk

Tim Bale, Queen Mary University, London t.bale@qmul.ac.uk



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