Local Councils and the Financial Squeeze

  • Martin Boddy


Attempts to cut back and control council spending have been central to the Thatcher Government’s strategy in relation to local government. The financial provisions of the 1980 Local Government, Planning and Land Act and a succession of supplementary measures aimed at enforcing the government squeeze on local council spending culminated, in 1983, in the plan to impose centrally determined limits on rate levels in individual authorities, giving complete control over expenditure levels. It is on these changes which this chapter focusses, changes which, the government has argued, are essential to its overall management of the economy. Here it is argued that these measures do not in fact represent the simple expression of macro-economic objectives. Nor are the issues raised simply ‘constitutional’, an affront to the historically established place of democratically elected local councils in the British political system, or a question of ‘central–local relations’ in an administrative sense although both these are important. Financial cuts and controls, it is argued, represent an essentially political and ideological strategy directed in particular against so-called ‘high-spending’, more radical Labour councils which have been attempting to maintain and expand the scale and scope of service provision.


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Notes and References

  1. 3.
    On capital expenditure, see: P. A. Watt, ‘The Control of Local Authority Capital Expenditure’, Local Government Studies May–June 1982, pp. 91–5;Google Scholar
  2. see also J. Barlow, ‘The Rationale for the control of Local Government Spending for the Purposes of Macro-economic Management’, Local Government Studies May-June 1981, pp. 3–13, andGoogle Scholar
  3. R. Jackman, ‘Does Central Government Need to Control the Total of Local Government Spending?’, Local Government Studies May–June 1982, pp. 75–90.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Association of County Councils, Association of Metropolitan Authorities, Association of District Councils, London Boroughs Association, Greater London Council, Rate Support Grant (England) 1981/82 (1981) p. 25.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    P. Smith and J. Stewart, ‘Local Authority Spending 1983/84’, Public Finance and Accountancy, June 1983, p. 35.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, Finance and General Statistics 1983–84 (CIPFA, 1983).Google Scholar
  7. 17.
    S. Lewis and A. Harrison, ‘Local spending: striving for control’, Public Money, September 1982, p. 56.Google Scholar
  8. 19.
    L. Brittan, ‘Why Control: the Treasury Case’, Public Money, September 1982, p. 60.Google Scholar
  9. 20.
    R. Bacon and W. Eltis, Britain’s Economic Problem: Too Few Producers (Macmillan, 1976).Google Scholar
  10. 28.
    G. Jones and J. D. Stewart ‘The value of local autonomy — a rejoinder’ Local Government Studies September–October 1982, pp. 10–14.Google Scholar
  11. J. D. Stewart, G. Jones, R. Greenwood and J. Raine, In Defence of Local Government (Institute of Local Government Studies, Universtiy of Birmingham, 1981).Google Scholar
  12. 31.
    See the excellent account of this earlier period in J. Gyford and M. James, National Parties and Local Politics (George Allen and Unwin, 1983).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martin Boddy 1984

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  • Martin Boddy

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