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Chapter

Cover Public Law

10. Localism and regionalism  

This chapter explores local government in the UK, by which is meant the myriad bodies and institutions elected in localities across the country and tasked with providing governance and leadership for a specific area. The historical development of such institutions is explored, placing this development in a broad constitutional context. The chapter explains the way in which local government operates, looking at the various structures adopted across the different parts of the UK. It also discusses and explains councils’ executive arrangements, focusing in particular on distinctions between single- and two-tier models and the emergence of directly elected mayors. A key constitutional consideration with regards to UK local government, though, is councils’ relationship with centralised (or devolved) authority. This is discussed in the chapter, with a particular emphasis on the way in which central government exerts control over local bodies including on the question of finance. The chapter also discusses recent and potential reform of local government.

Chapter

Cover Administrative Law

4. Local and Devolved Government  

Sir William Wade and Christopher Forsyth

This chapter begins with a discussion of various aspects of local government including its historical development, principal functions, operations and proceedings, revenues, audit system, and central influence and control. It then describes the legal status and responsibilities of the police force and self-government in Scotland and Wales.

Chapter

Cover Wade & Forsyth's Administrative Law

4. Local and Devolved Government  

Sir William Wade, Christopher Forsyth, and Julian Ghosh

This chapter begins with a discussion of various aspects of local government including its historical development, principal functions, operations and proceedings, revenues, audit system and central influence and control. It then describes the legal status and responsibilities of the police force and self-government in Scotland and Wales.

Chapter

Cover Public Law

6. Multilevel Governing Within the United Kingdom  

This chapter examines multilevel governing within the UK. It is organized around three levels of governing: national, regional, and local. For most of the twentieth century, Great Britain (England, Wales, and Scotland) formed a centralized political unit, with policymaking and law-making being led by the UK government and the UK Parliament. There was devolved government in Northern Ireland from 1922, but this was brought to an end by the UK government in 1972 amid mounting civil unrest and paramilitary violence. At the local level, there are more than 400 local authorities throughout the United Kingdom. These vary considerably in size, both in terms of their territorial area that they cover and their populations.

Chapter

Cover Public Law

8. Devolution and The Territorial Constitution  

This chapter focuses on the UK’s territorial constitution, that is, the governance arrangements that result in power being dispersed rather than concentrated in a single set of national institutions. Devolution involved creating new governments in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales, and investing them with powers that were previously exercised at a UK level. Devolution in the UK is therefore intended to be part of the answer to questions that must be confronted in all political systems: where should governmental power lie? And at what level should laws be enacted and the business of government transacted? Local government plays a key role in decision-making, policy formulation, and the delivery of public services across a wide range of areas, including education, housing, personal social services, transport, and planning control.

Chapter

Cover Public Law Directions

4. How the UK is organised  

This chapter details how power is allocated in the UK, and its organisation in terms of devolution and regional and local government. Power in the UK is divided into three branches or arms of state: legislature (law-makers), executive (government and administration), and judiciary (courts and judges). Before devolution, the government’s (executive’s) administrative power was centralised and it extended to the whole of the UK, but devolution has made significant changes to the constitution and has brought a substantial rebalancing of power in the government of the UK. Since devolution’s introduction, the power of central government no longer extends to the growing areas of domestic policy that have been devolved to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The UK government’s remit therefore now covers England and the whole of the UK on non-devolved matters including the conduct of foreign affairs, defence, national security, and oversight of the Civil Service and government agencies.

Chapter

Cover Public Law

6. Multilevel Governing Within the United Kingdom  

This chapter examines multilevel governing within the UK. It is organized around three levels of governing: national, regional, and local. For most of the twentieth century, mainland Great Britain (England, Wales, and Scotland) formed a centralized political unit, with policy-making and law-making being led by the UK government and the UK Parliament. There was devolved government in Northern Ireland from 1922, but this was ended by the UK government in 1972 amid mounting civil unrest and paramilitary violence. At the local level, there are 382 principal councils (unitary, upper, and second tier) throughout the United Kingdom. These vary considerably in size, both in terms of their territorial area that they cover and their populations. This chapter discusses how the introduction of devolved government in 1998 has altered the governance arrangements in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. It also examines how devolution affects the territorial constitution, (see Section 6.4), intergovernmental relations with Westminster (see Section 6.5), and the governance of England (see Section 6.6).

Chapter

Cover Constitutional Law, Administrative Law, and Human Rights

10. Local Government  

This chapter examines the institution of local government. This topic is often neglected in constitutional law studies, on the rather simplistic basis that since the United Kingdom is not in a legal sense a ‘federal country’ it is only the national governmental system that merits close attention. The suggestion made here is that analysis of the role played by local government institutions reveals a great deal about the nature of ‘democracy’ within our modern constitution. The chapter focuses in general terms on the evolution of ideas relating to localism, tradition, and the ‘modernisation’ of local government and on local government’s changing constitutional status during the course of the twentieth century. More specifically, the chapter examines trends in the institutional structure of the local government sector (and especially the abolition of the Greater London Council and metropolitan counties in the mid-1980s), developments relating to the fiscal autonomy of local government throughout that period, the role played by the judiciary in determining the limits of local government autonomy, and changes in one of the most important areas of local authority activity – the provision of council housing.

Chapter

Cover Cases and Materials on Constitutional and Administrative Law

12. Ombudsmen  

This chapter examines the institution of the ombudsman, its origins, the conditions of access and the jurisdiction of the parliamentary, health service and local government ombudsmen and the key ideas of maladministration and injustice. It also reviews how ombudsmen handle and resolve complaints and seek improvements by public bodies in their handling of complaints, and the learning of lessons, as well as considering the outcome of investigations and remedies recommended by the ombudsman. Finally, the chapter discusses the process developed by the ombudsmen in dealing with complainants dissatisfied with the service they have received and how the courts deal with the judicial reviews brought against ombudsmen by complainants. Note is also made of the research on judicial reviews brought against these ombudsmen.

Chapter

Cover Administrative Law

13. Ombudsmen and inquiries  

This chapter examines ombudsmen and other facilities for investigation of the working of government, and the ways in which they can resolve disputes and improve administration. The ombudsmen’s role has four key features: (1) it is independent; (2) it investigates a complaint; (3) it looks for injustice caused by maladministration; and (4) it makes a report. The chapter explains the ombudsman process, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, local government ombudsmen, and the effects of ombudsmen’s reports. The chapter also explains the law on judicial review of ombudsman decisions and judicial review of the way in which public authorities respond to ombudsman reports, and argues that the judicial process has very little to offer in improving the operation of ombudsman schemes. The role of inquiries is also explained, with discussion of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Inquiries Act 2005, and public authorities’ duties to inquire under the common law and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Chapter

Cover Constitutional and Administrative Law

16. Tribunals, inquiries, and the ombudsmen remedy  

This chapter begins by distinguishing between tribunals and inquiries. A tribunal is a permanent body that sits periodically, while an inquiry is something which is established on an ad hoc basis. Tribunals are empowered to make decisions that are binding on those parties subject to their jurisdiction; inquiries generally do not have formal decision-making powers. Tribunals are concerned with matters of fact and law, whereas inquiries are concerned with wider policy issues. The discussion then turns to the reform of the tribunal system; the former Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council; the origins of ombudsmen; the Parliamentary Commissioner; ombudsmen of devolved institutions; the Health Service Commissioner; the Local Government Commissioners; ombudsmen and the courts; and proposals for a unified Public Service Ombudsman service.

Chapter

Cover Essential Cases: Public Law

Porter v Magill [2001] UKHL 67, House of Lords  

Essential Cases: Public Law provides a bridge between course textbooks and key case judgments. This case document summarizes the facts and decision in Porter v Magill [2001] UKHL 67, House of Lords. This case note considers the introduction of a revised test for bias in public law decision-making. The document also includes supporting commentary and questions from author Thomas Webb.

Chapter

Cover Essential Cases: Public Law

Porter v Magill [2001] UKHL 67, House of Lords  

Essential Cases: Public Law provides a bridge between course textbooks and key case judgments. This case document summarizes the facts and decision in Porter v Magill [2001] UKHL 67, House of Lords. This case note considers the introduction of a revised test for bias in public law decision-making. The document also includes supporting commentary and questions from author Thomas Webb.

Chapter

Cover Administrative Law

1. Introductory Matters  

Mark Elliott and Jason Varuhas

This introduction provides an overview of administrative law and administrative power in the UK. It begins with a discussion of the ‘red light’ and ‘green light’ theories of administrative law, along with judicial review. In particular, it considers the scope and intensity of judicial review, why judicial review is expanding, and whether (more) judicial review is a good thing. It then examines the debate about the constitutional basis of judicial review, focusing on the ultra vires doctrine and its modified version, and whether judicial review must be related to legislative intention. It also explains administrative power in the modern UK constitution, paying attention to the main features of the devolution systems, the powers and nature of the devolved institutions, the political and legal accountability of devolved administrations, and the powers of the local government.