local government

(redirected from County government)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Acronyms.

local government

local government, political administration of the smallest subdivisions of a country's territory and population.

Characteristics and Types

Although there are special-purpose local government bodies (e.g., school boards in the United States), more important are those that carry out a broad range of public activities within a defined area and population. Almost all such local government bodies share certain characteristics: a continuing organization; the authority to undertake public activities; the ability to enter into contracts; the right to sue and be sued; and the ability to collect taxes and determine a budget. Areas of local government authority usually include public schools, local highways, municipal services, and some aspects of social welfare and public order. An important distinction among types of local government is that between representative bodies, which are elected locally and have decision-making authority, and nonrepresentative bodies, which are either appointed from above or, if elected locally, have no independent governing authority. While most countries have complex systems of local government, those of France and Great Britain have served as models for much of the rest of the world.

The French System

The French system is among the most nonrepresentative. Its basic structure, codified by Napoleon I, developed out of the need of revolutionary France to curtail the power of local notables, while hastening government reform. It stresses clear lines of authority, reaching from the central government's ministry of the interior through the centrally appointed prefect of the department to the municipality, which has a locally elected mayor and municipal council. The prefect, being both the chief executive of the department and the representative of the central bureaucracy, provides the channel of centralization, with wide authority to overrule local councils and supervise local expenditures. Variants of this system are found throughout Europe and in former French colonies.

The British System

The British system of local government, which has been the model for most of that country's former colonies, including the United States, is the most representative of the major types. Largely reformed in the 19th cent. and extensively restructured in the 1970s, the system stresses local government autonomy through elected councils on the county and subcounty levels. This system was marked by less central government interference and greater local budgetary authority than in other systems. However, in 1986, six major county governments were abolished by Parliament, while the powers of others were restricted. A special feature of the British system is its use of an extensive committee system, instead of a strong executive, for supervising the administration of public services.

Despite differences among states, local governments of the United States follow the general principles of the British system, except that a strong executive is common. The county remains the usual political subdivision, although it has retained more authority in rural than in urban areas, where incorporated municipalities (see city government) have most of the local power. In both rural and urban areas the local government's relationship to the state is a complex one of shared authority and carefully defined areas of legal competence. Local governments are pulled two ways, increasingly reliant on state and federal funding to carry out their expected duties, while fearful of losing their traditional degree of local control.


See J. J. Clarke, A History of Local Government of the United Kingdom (1955); D. Lockard, The Politics of State and Local Government (2d ed. 1969); S. Humes and E. Martin, The Structure of Local Government (1969); R. D. Bingham, State and Local Government in an Urban Society (1986); N. Henry, Governing the Grassroots (3d ed. 1987); R. H. Leach and T. G. O'Rourke, State and Local Government (1988).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

local government

1. government of the affairs of counties, towns, etc., by locally elected political bodies
2. the US equivalent of local authority
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
HAWKERS BILLTheir concerns come in the wake of the governor's Hawker's Bill which is in the stage of public participation which started on July 30.The Bill, which was presented to the Senate by Governor Wa Iria last year, envisions an end to the running battles between hawkers and enforcement agencies, where each county government will come up with a street vending zone plan and submit it to the county assembly for approval.According to the proposed law, the County Executive Member for Trade will set up a street vendors unit or department that will be charged with prescribing business fees and other registration charges.
Under council-executive form of county government, the citizens elect a county executive who serves as the chief administrative officer of the county government, including all of its operations.
"Binzhouting tongzhi Du Yuheng chenqing Shaoguodian xunjian gaishe xianzhibing" [Petition of Binzhou Prefecture Governor Du Yuheng to Establish a County Government Seat at Shaoguodian (Yanshou)] (April 6, 1902); HS, 452.
Leaving aside the fact that the county government continues to own a significant number of enterprises (thus making the county government a major player in entrepreneurial activities), the Yiji case would prompt the following questions: Did not the Yiji facilitate the collection of management fees, taxes, and other surcharges and thus enhance revenue generation?
With these issues in mind, the governor recently filed legislation to abolish county government in Massachusetts by July 1, 1998.
'We want the county government to break their silence on this matter and tell us what they are doing to address the drugs menace.
Performances of various forms and genres will be staged at the Donggang and Pingtung City venues every day during the lantern festival, the county government said.
Adding machines thereby became critical components in the management of county government, so much so that the county bought four more machines by 1927.
At the same time, Faltischek was careful to point out that if the plans for financial improvements resulting from the Nassau County Government Center sound shaky, it is because most of the research on the development hasn't been done yet.
Chase has released a report, County Government: Transferring Its Functions to the Commonwealth, advocating the abolition of county governments and the assumption of their roles and responsibilities to the state government.
The Bill requires the county government to make arrangements for the training and certification of the volunteers using an approved curriculum.

Full browser ?