Accountability and democracy in the new local governance : an evaluation
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This thesis addressesth e themeso f the democracya nd accountability of British local governance, in the context of the modernising agenda, through an evaluation of research in five areas: the role(s) of local councillors; external scrutiny inquiries; consultations; community appraisals; and changes to local boundaries. Key issues in relation to democracy and accountability include the role of external scrutiny in holding the unelected local state accountable to elected representatives; updating the literature on the activities of county councillors; and assessingth e limited impact of local authority consultations and community appraisals. In particular, the assessmenot f consultations suggestsa processt hat is often driven by a public relations focus and that few of those exercises both generate unexpected outcomes and have a substantial impact. In relation to the appraisals, the study suggests greater effectiveness in resolving small-scale problems capable of solution through town or parish local governance or community groups. The research on local boundary changes identifies the role of democratic local representatives in the reviews and the weak lines of downward accountability in respect of the process. This analysis also shows how these boundary changes impact on the way councillors perform certain core activities, including electoral campaigning. In relation to the local government modernisation agenda, the analysis suggests that little progress has been made towards the aim of strengthening the responsiveness of service providers to the wider community and or service users. Similarly, the establishment of scrutiny structures has had a relatively marginal impact on external agencies. While the community representation focus of many councillors is in sympathy with local government modernisation, the Devon study suggests that such attitudes predated this agenda.
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