Local government in context
Until the advent of devolved assemblies (see Chapter 10) the only layer of elected government below the centre was local government. Traditionally this has been responsible for a wide range of services-including at various times gas, electricity, further and higher education, and water. Today, however, things are very different. Elected local government has seen a loss of powers and responsibilities. It now ‘shares the turf’ with a wide variety of agencies (e.g. health authorities, police authorities, primary care groups, action zones, partnerships), none of which is directly elected. Elected local government is now but one part of a complex mosaic of organisations delivering services at the local level; the term local governance’ (see Chapter 1) is used increasingly to describe public administrative activity at the local level. As Loughlin (1996, p. 56) observes, ‘Local councils have been stripped of governmental responsibility for certain services which continue to be public services but which are now provided by agencies which are directly funded from the centre.’ The once dominant position of elected local government in service provision has been challenged both by the rise of local quangos (see Chapter 8) and by the increased involvement of private sector organisations, voluntary bodies and other governmental agencies.