U.S.-Style Leadership for English Local Government?


  • Robin Hambleton,

    1. Robin Hambleton is dean of the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois–Chicago, where he is a professor of public administration and professor of urban planning and policy. He was an adviser to ministers in the U.K. central government. His latest book, edited with Hank Savitch and Murray Stewart, is Globalism and Local Democracy: Challenge and Change in Europe and North America (Palgrave, 2002). E-mail: robinh@uic.edu.
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  • David Sweeting

    1. David Sweeting is a research fellow in the Cities Research Center, Faculty of the Built Environment, University of the West of England, Bristol, United Kingdom. He completed his doctorate on democracy in local governance at the University of Portsmouth and has carried out research on public participation and local political leadership both in the United Kingdom and comparatively in Europe. E-mail: david.sweeting@uwe.ac.uk.
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Significant changes in the political management of local authorities in the United Kingdom are now taking place as a result of legislation passed by the Labour government since 1997. The new political management models aim to modernize local governance by strengthening local leadership, streamlining decision making, and enhancing local accountability. These changes owe much to U.S. experience: They involve the introduction of a separation of powers between an executive and an assembly, and they allow local authorities to introduce directly elected mayors for the first time ever. Is U.K. local government beginning to adopt what might be described as U.S.-style approaches to local governance? The evidence suggests the new institutional designs for U.K. local authorities represent a radical shift toward U.S.-style local leadership and decision making. However, the U.K. central state remains heavily involved in the details of local decision making, to an extent that would be unthinkable in the United States.