Local Government in Europe: Trends And Developments by Richard Batley, Gerry Stoker

By Richard Batley, Gerry Stoker

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Stewart and G. Stoker (eds) The Future of Local Government, Macmillan, London. Stewart, J. and Stoker, G. (1988) From Local Administration to Community Government, Research Series 351, Fabian Society, London. Stewart, J. and Stoker, G. (1989) 'The Free Local Government Experiments and the Programme of Public Service Reform in Scandinavia' in C. Crouch and D. , Basil Blackwell, Oxford. Stoker, G. (1988) The Politics of Local Government, Macmillan, London. Stoker, G. ', in J. Stewart and G. Stoker (eds), The Future of Local Government, Macmillan, London.

The tradition of the free or chartered cities and boroughs, based on an acceptance by the state of the contribution they made to shared wealth as free centres of wealth and commerce, is a common root in virtually all European systems. They developed from institutions of self-government in towns, boroughs and Alan Norton 25 cities, controlling their own fiscal systems and levying direct taxes on individuals according to means and on individual consumption, also related to personal means. We find here basic values: a high valuation of freedom amongst their bourgeoisies and craftsmen, encapsulated in the German proverb 'Stadtluft macht frei' ('town air makes man free'); and public provision of services in, for example, their development of the regulation of commerce and industry, welfare services, road systems, water supply, drainage and sewerage, rudimentary public health systems, schools and facilities for the care of the poor and elderly.

Among the main areas of action are the simplification of rules, less compartmentalisation of committee and administrative structures, greater flexibility in the provision of services to the citizen and the transfer of more powers of decision from state bodies to local authorities. Undoubtedly the end-result will be a general reduction of state regulation and control. Although some of the innovations of the free local government experiments in Scandinavia appear to relate to constraints to which local authorities in countries like Britain have traditionally been less subject, there is no mistaking the strength of the trend towards greater local autonomy.

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