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).
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.
The municipals of Canada are so helpful. They organize events for the town or township.
However, intercommunalities are now a level of government between municipalities and departments.
Local government on the Isle of Man is based around the concept of ancient parishes. There are three types of local authorities: a borough corporation, town commissions, and parish commissions.
Major cities also have an extra tier of local government named Circoscrizione di Decentramento Comunale or, in some cities (e.g. Rome) Municipio.
Since the Meiji restoration, Japan has had a local government system based on prefectures. The national government oversees much of the country. Municipal governments consist from historical villages. Now merger and restoration of those municipal governments are undergoing for cost effective administration. In between are the 47 prefectures which are made up by area and population. They have two main responsibilities. One is mediation between national and municipal governments. The other is area wide administration.
Local government is the lowest level in the system of government in Malaysia - after federal and state. It has the power to collect taxes (in the form of assesment tax), to create laws and rules (in the form of by-laws) and to grant licenses and permits for any trade in its area of jurisdiction, in addition to providing basic amenities, collecting and managing waste and garbage as well as planning and developing the area under its jurisdiction.
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 (gemeenteraad) 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&W), made up of the mayor (Burgemeester) 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 (Dijkgraaf) 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.
The system of local government is different in each of the four countries of the United Kingdom.
England is subdivided on different levels:
The top level of local government within England are the nine regions. Each region has a government office and assorted other institutions. Only the London region has a directly elected administration. Only one other regional referendum has been held to date to seek consent for the introduction direct elections elsewhere - in the northeast of England - and this was soundly rejected by the electorate.
The layers of government below the regions are mixed.
Historic counties still exist with adapted boundaries, 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 32 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.
Local government of the United States refers to the governments at the city, town, village, borough, 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.