Living with ambiguity: The relationship between central and local government

David Walker

Relations between central government and local authorities have a long history of being difficult and unsettled.

In a new study of this vexed relationship, David Walker – Analysis Editor at the Guardian and long-time observer of the municipal scene – assesses its dynamics. He suggests that local authorities should content themselves with intrinsically local services, leaving social policy to central government and the variety of agencies it employs to provide services.

This conclusion, based on close examination of government statements and official attitudes, will be contested. But the author provides a picture of the future of political and administrative forces at work in modern Britain which all those concerned with public service provision, locally and nationally, will welcome for its uncompromising clarity, even if the conclusion has to be that councils and central government will live in conditions of unresolved tension for years to come.

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