Local government

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Local governments are administrative offices of an area smaller than a state or province. The term is used to contrast with offices at nation-state level, which are referred to as the central government, national government, or (where appropriate) federal government.

In modern nations, local governments usually have fewer powers than national governments do. They usually have some power to raise taxes, though these may be limited by central legislation. In some countries local government is partly or wholly funded by subventions from central government taxation. The question of Municipal Autonomy - which powers the local government has, or should have, and why - is a key question of public administration and governance.

The institutions of local government vary greatly between countries, and even where similar arrangements exist, the terminology often varies. Common names for local government entities include state, province, region, department, county, prefecture, district, city, township, town, borough, parish, municipality, shire and village. However all these names are often used informally in countries where they do not describe a legal local government entity.

Main articles on each country will usually contain some information about local government, or links to an article with fuller information. The rest of this article gives information or links for countries where a relatively full description is available.


[edit] Australia

As a federal country, Australia has a number of States and Territories with wide ranging powers, and a lower tier of Local Governments. These arrangements are described in the articles States and territories of Australia and Local Government in Australia

[edit] France

According to its constitution, France has 3 levels of local government :

22 Régions and 4 Régions d'outre-mer (Réunion, Martinique, Guadeloupe and French Guiana).

96 départements and 4 départements d'outre-mer (Réunion, Guadeloupe, Martinique and French Guiana).

There are 36 679 municipalities (in French: Communes).

However, intercommunalities are now a level of government between municipalities and departments.

Corsica and Paris (both a commune and a département) are local government sui generis.

[edit] Germany

As a federal country, Germany is divided into a number of states (Länder in German), which used to have wide powers, but whose main remaining power today (2004) is their ability to veto federal laws through their Bundesrat representation. The system of local government is described in the article on States of Germany.

[edit] India

Please see main article: Local Governance in India

[edit] Israel

The Israeli Ministry of Interior recognizes four types of local government in Israel:

  • Cities - 71 single-level urban municipalities, usually with populations exceeding 20 000 residents.
  • Local councils - 141 single-level urban or rural municipalities, usually with populations between 2,000 and 20,000.
  • Regional Councils - 54 bi-level municipalities which govern multiple rural communities located in relative geographic vicinity. The number of residents in the individual communities usually does not exceed 2000. There are no clear limits to the population and land area size of Israeli regional councils.

[edit] Italy

The Italian Constitution defines four levels of local government:

  • Regions: At present 5 of them (Valle d'Aosta, Friuli, Trentino, Sardinia and Sicily) have a special status and are given more power than the others. The new Constitution, if confirmed, would give even more power to these bodies.
  • Provinces: They mostly care to roads, forests, and education. They had more power in the past.
  • Communes: The Mayor and his staff, caring for the needs of a single town.

Some cities also have an extra tier of local government, the Neighborhood Council (Consiglio di Quartiere).

[edit] Japan

Since the Meiji restoration, Japan has had a simple and clear local government system.

First, Japan is divided into 47 prefectures. Each prefecture comprises cities, villages and towns. In Hokkaido, Nagasaki and Okinawa, there are branches of the prefectural government sometimes referred to as "Subprefectures".

[edit] The Netherlands

The Netherlands has three tiers of government. There are two levels of local government in The Netherlands, the provinces and the municipalities. The water boards are also part of the local government.

The Netherlands is divided into twelve provinces. They form the tier of administration between the central government and the municipalities. Each province is governed by a provincial council (provinciale staten). Its members are elected every four years. The day-to-day management of the province is in the hands of the provincial executive (gedeputeerde staten). Members of the executive are chosen by the provincial council from among its own members and like the members of the provincial council serve for a period of four years. Members elected to the executive have to give up their membership of the provincial council. The size of the executive varies from one province to another. In Flevoland, the smallest of the Dutch provinces, it has four members, while most other provinces have six or seven. Meetings of the provincial executive are chaired by the Queen's Commissioner. The Queen's Commissioner (Commissaris van de Koningin) is not elected by the residents of the province, but appointed by the Crown (the Queen and government ministers). The appointment is for six years and may be extended by a second term. The Queen's Commissioner can be dismissed only by the Crown. Queen's Commissioners play an important part in the appointment of municipal mayors. When a vacancy arises, the Queen's Commissioner first asks the municipal council for its views as to a successor, then writes to the Minister of the Interior recommending a candidate.

Municipalities form the lowest tier of government in the Netherlands, after the central government and the provinces. There are 458 of them (1 January 2006). The municipal council is the highest authority in the municipality. Its members are elected every four years. The role of the municipal council is comparable to that of the board of an organisation or institution. Its main job is to decide the municipality's broad policies and to oversee their implementation. The day-to-day administration of the municipality is in the hands of the municipal executive (college van burgemeester en wethouders, abbreviated to B en W), made up of the mayor and the aldermen. The executive implements national legislation on matters such as social assistance, unemployment benefits and environmental management. It also bears primary responsibility for the financial affairs of the municipality and for its personnel policies. Aldermen (wethouders) are appointed by the council. Councillors can be chosen to act as aldermen. In that case, they lose their seats on the council and their places are taken by other representatives of the same political parties. Non-councillors can also be appointed. Unlike councillors and aldermen, mayors are not elected (not even indirectly), but are appointed by the Crown. Mayors chair both the municipal council and the executive. They have a number of statutory powers and responsibilities of their own. They are responsible for maintaining public order and safety within the municipality and frequently manage the municipality's public relations. As Crown appointees, mayors also have some responsibility for overseeing the work of the municipality, its policies and relations with other government bodies. Although they are obliged to carry out the decisions of the municipal council and executive, they may recommend that the Minister of the Interior quash any decision that they believe to be contrary to the law or against the public interest. Mayors are invariably appointed for a period of six years and are normally re-appointed automatically for another term, provided the municipal council agrees. They can be dismissed only by the Crown and not by the municipal council.

Water boards are among the oldest government authorities in the Netherlands. They literally form the foundation of the whole Dutch system of local government; from time immemorial they have shouldered the responsibility for water management for the residents of their area. In polders this mainly involves regulating the water level. It has always been in the common interest to keep water out and polder residents have always had to work together. That is what led to the creation of water boards. The structure of the water boards varies, but they all have a general administrative body, an executive board and a chairperson. The general administrative body consists of people representing the various categories of stakeholders: landholders, leaseholders, owners of buildings, companies and, since recently, all the residents as well. Importance and financial contribution decide how many representatives each category may delegate. Certain stakeholders (e.g. environmental organisations) may be given the power to appoint members. The general administrative body elects the executive board from among its members. The government appoints the chairperson for a period of six years. The general administrative body is elected for a period of four years (as individuals, not party representatives). Unlike municipal council elections, voters do not usually have to go to a polling station but can vote by mail or even by telephone.

[edit] New Zealand

New Zealand has two tiers of authorities. The top tier comprises the regional councils. The second tier is the territorial authorities consisting of city councils, district councils and one island council. Four territorial authorities are unitary authorities, in that they also perform the functions of a regional council.

[edit] Nigeria

Nigeria has three tiers of governments. The top tier is the federal, which has the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary. The second tier contains the States of the federation. There are currently 36 states in Nigeria. The third tier is the Local Government. There are 774 local governments in Nigeria.

[edit] Norway

Norway's regional administration is organised in 19 counties (fylke), with 18 of them subdivided into 432 municipalities (kommune). The municipal sector is a provider of vital services to the Norwegian public, accounting for about 20% of Norwegian GNP and 24% of total employment.

[edit] Philippines

For a description of the arrangements in force, see the section on Regions and Provinces in the article on the Philippines. Institute of Development Management and Governance [1]

[edit] United Kingdom

Main article: Local government in the United Kingdom

The system of local government is different in the four nations of the United Kingdom.

[edit] England

The most complex system is in England, the result of numerous attempts at reform and reorganisation over the centuries.

Above the level considered here is the European Union, the United Kingdom and whatever government offices may exist for England as a whole. England currently has no elected officials responsible solely for the entire country.

The top level of local government within England is now the region. There are nine regions including Greater London, which in some ways is a unique case. Each region has a government office and assorted other institutions. Regions appear to have been introduced in their present form around 1994 and the policy of the current administration is to increase their power, including the introduction of elected assemblies where desired. The 'regionalisation of England' is disliked by many people and is commonly seen as an unnecessary concept - only one regional referendum has been held to date in the northeast of England, which was soundly rejected by the electorate.

The layers of government below the regions are mixed. Traditional counties still exist, although in the 1990s some of the districts within the counties became separate unitary authorities and a few counties have been disbanded completely. There are also metropolitan districts in some areas which are similar to unitary authorities. In Greater London there are London boroughs which are a similar concept.

Counties are further divided into districts (also known as boroughs in some areas).

Districts are divided into wards for electoral purposes.

Districts may also contain parishes and town council areas with a small administration of their own.

Other area classifications are also in use, such as health service and Lord-Lieutenant areas.

See also: Ceremonial counties of England, Districts of England, metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties of England, Subdivisions of England, UK topics

[edit] Wales

Wales has a uniform system of unitary authorities, referred to as counties or county boroughs. There are also communities, equivalent to parishes.

[edit] Scotland

Local government in Scotland is arranged on the lines of unitary authorities, with the nation divided into 32 council areas.

[edit] United States

Local government of the United States refers to the governments at the city, town, village, or civil township level in the United States of America. In the more general sense, local government also refers to state government, regional government, and county government.

[edit] See also

es:Gobierno municipal he:רשות מקומית ja:地方公共団体 fr:Administration territoriale vi:Chính quyền địa phương zh:地方政府

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