Defending Local Government in Practice and Theory

  • Arthur Midwinter
Part of the Government Beyond the Centre book series (GBC)


In the 1990s, the Conservative government presented a bold vision of radical reform in local government, achieved through financial controls, market discipline and structural change. Its detractors have argued that it is centralising power (Jones, 1992; Crouch and Maynard 1989), but its defenders see it as decentralising power to the citizen (Pirie 1988; Bulpitt 1989). The essence of the Conservative defence to this charge of creating a new centralism is straightforward:

In changing the ways in which things have been done for decades, we are predictably accused of attacking local government. I emphatically reject that charge. Certainly local government’s powers in certain respects will be limited, but they will be in practice not by the government but by local people. (Ridley, 1988)

This is consistent with the presentation of the issue and their response to it by Thatcherites. Ridley saw the government as a radical one which was not prepared to rubber-stamp time- honoured policies that in his view led to Britain’s decline. Firm government, with clear convictions and objectives, was at the head of this new approach to local government.


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© Arthur Midwinter 1995

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  • Arthur Midwinter

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