Local Governments and the Provision of Public Service in France and the United Kingdom
Új Magyar Közigazgatás (Hungarian), Forthcoming
16 Pages Posted: 16 Feb 2013
Date Written: 2013
France and the United Kingdom share some common constitutional characteristics that have a profound impact on the provision of public services at local level. Both countries are strong unitary systems where central government and Parliament have played a key role in the provision of public services.
Centralized administration is a strong guarantee of equality of all the citizens before the law and in this respect both countries share the same concern. Therefore many public services are performed by local branches of central government: in the UK for example, HM Revenue and Customs and the Department of Work and Pensions as well as a host of unelected spending bodies (“local quangos”) are a local emanation of central government.
However local governments in the two countries have different legal features that stem from different historical background. Also, different evolutions can be witnessed. The greatest difference for our concern is the lack of a general competence clause for British local authorities. Local authorities in England and Wales did not enjoy powers of general competence until 2011. Since the Local Government Act 2000, local authorities have had a power to act for the well-being of their area and in the Localism Act 2011 they were finally given a power of general competence. The provision of public services is impacted by this difference, for in the UK local governments could not create public services on their own motion, the power had to be delegated by Parliament. On the contrary French cities have enjoyed such powers since 1884.
Keywords: Comparative Administrative Law, Local Government, Public Services
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