local government(redirected from County government)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Acronyms.
Characteristics and Types
The French System
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).