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The Future of Local Government
     

The Future of Local Government

by G. D. H. Cole
 

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From the beginning of the first chapter, "A Financial Impasse."

LOCAL Government seems, to many people, an uninspiring study. The school of Socialists, very influential in this country in the past, which devoted its principal attention to the development of the "municipal enterprise " of a generation ago, has been, then and since then, freely denounced and

Overview

From the beginning of the first chapter, "A Financial Impasse."

LOCAL Government seems, to many people, an uninspiring study. The school of Socialists, very influential in this country in the past, which devoted its principal attention to the development of the "municipal enterprise " of a generation ago, has been, then and since then, freely denounced and contemned as advocates of mere "gas and water Socialism." Perhaps, from one point of view, the criticism was just; for it was easy for the local Labour councilor, keenly conscious of the responsibilities of his office and somewhat overwhelmed by the mass of administrative detail in which he found himself involved, to forget all about the wider issues of Socialism, and to devote himself entirely to his efforts to improve the housing, sanitation, and services and amenities of his native town within the limitations imposed by the present economic and political system. But, if the criticism was in some measure justified, certainly in some quarters the reaction has been allowed to proceed too far, so as to obscure the fundamental importance of the work upon which the local Labour councilor is engaged. For Local Government is a matter of primary concern, above all to the Labour Movement, not only on account of the immediate services which it is capable of performing, but also because of the place which it can be made to assume in a reorganized social system.

In a practical way Labour has recognized this fact, and has made a determined effort to secure control of the machinery of Local Government. In the majority of areas it has made headway, but not, as a rule, nearly enough to give it a commanding position. Where, as in the Metropolitan Boroughs, it has won sweeping municipal victories, the effect has been to make its representatives on the local Councils, which are dominated by Labour, perhaps more conscious at present of the immense difficulties which immediately confront them than of the still greater opportunities which can be created for the future.

For, where Labour has assumed local office, it has done so at a very difficult moment. The general rise in prices has added hugely to the cost of local administration, and, as a local authority cannot "profiteer" in the running of its reproductive services, the rates have inevitably risen, whatever party or section has been in power. The cost of maintaining the ser- vices of health and education and the necessary administrative machinery of Local Government, even at their pre-war level of efficiency, has greatly in- creased, and, in addition, fresh administrative work has, throughout the war years, been entrusted to the local authorities by the central Government. At the same time the State, burdened by the vast expenditure of the war, has raised its taxation to heights previously unknown, and has been driven to resort to borrowing on an unprecedented scale. The distressed taxpayer of the middle class, unable to influence the volume of national expenditure, has turned in despair upon the local authorities, and is clamouring for a reduction in local taxation, which the continued increase in costs is forcing ever higher. Moreover, the State, as its claims eat more and more deeply into the "taxable surpluses" of the middle class, comes increasingly to regard the local authorities as its competitors in the scramble for revenue, and attempts to augment, both directly and indirectly, its central control over local expenditure. This applies not only to proposals to add to the rates, but also where the local authority desires to borrow money for municipal development. For, in borrowing also, the local body, even if it is not backed by the credit of the nation, is a competitor of the State in the money market; and large local borrowings make less easy the raising of State loans, and may force up the rate of interest which the State is called upon to pay.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781519262189
Publisher:
CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date:
11/11/2015
Pages:
194
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.41(d)

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