More than any other area of the constitution, local government has undergone constant change over the past two decades. The Conservative legislation introducing compulsory competitive tendering. replacing rates with first the community charge and then the council tax, the structural reorganization of local councils (with the creation of unitary authorities), and the increasing emphasis on rights for users of local services have left an enduring legacy. The actions
of some local authorities on the municipal left and the New Right have tested the legal limits of local democracy to the full. The new Labour government has initiated further changes with the `best
value' regime, the reform of executive structures, and by introducing elected mayors and cabinets in local authorities, and new powers for councils to become `community leaders', working in partnership with other public, private, and voluntary bodies within their areas. Moreover, other aspects of the constitutional reform programme, especially devolution, have substantial implications for local government. This new study assesses these and other developments in terms of
the underlying questions they raise about the nature of local democracy and its legal recognition. The book considers the competing and legally interlocking claims of local representative democracy,
financial accountability and consumerism and their implications for the governing structures of local authorities and for local electors, councillors, taxpayers, the users of local services, and council employees. Finally, it asks whether the legal shape and powers of local government fit it for the changing role it is now asked to play.
`... this book is far from being an arid legal text, devoid of 'political' insights ... Students of local government will find this book both up-to-date (incorporating the 2000 Local Government Act) and very user-friendly. It is the sort of book to have readily available for reference.'
`Part III of the book is of special value. It teases out the case law between politics and decision making, and then goes on to relate that to the position of the councillor to the party group, and to inter-group relations on hung councils. The work overall is very rich. It hits levels of reality in the relation between law and politics which are vital for practitioners and policy makers to understand. It should be a source book and essential reading
for all those with a part to play in delivering and further developing the modernising agenda for local government.'
Local Government Studies, Vol. 28, No. l
`Ian Leigh has written a very good book indeed. It is broad-ranging, scholarly, and thoroughly modern, at the same time as being informed by a deep understanding and respect for the antecedents of local politics. It is also extremely well-written given the sometimes unexciting nature of the subject matter. ... admirable ... critically-important ... excellent ... Multiple copies for libraries are needed, while all serious scholars in the field should
possess their own copy.'
Journal of Law and Society, volume 28 number 4 (2001)
`This is an ambitious but timely project given the immense changes that have recently taken place, that fully reflects Leigh's obvious encyclopedic knowledge of local government law. This is a significant piece of scholarship that adds to the growing corpus of knowledge on the interface of political institutions and public law.'
Democratization, Vol. 8, No. 4
PART I: Legal and Political Foundations
1: Local Democracy in its Constitutional Setting
2: The Powers of Local Government
Part II: Accountability to the Public
3: Information, Public Participation, and Accountability
4: Financial Accountability
5: Consumer Accountability
PART: III: Political Leadership and Decision-Making
6: Party Groups, Councillors, and the Law
7: Executive Structures
8: Officers and Politics
Part IV: The Council in the Community
9: Politics and Contracts
10: Local Government, Business, and partnership
11: Conclusion: The New Local Government