Local Democracy and the Agency Model of Local Governance (2017)
AuthorsMueller Sshow all
Local governance is an integral part of most modern states. Its role is generally to implement central government policy on a local level, to provide and manage local infrastructure such as roads, waste management and water supply, and to conduct government business on a narrower day-to-day basis.1 The extent to which local government has discretion when fulfilling these duties, depends its relationship with central government. Countries with a unitary government structure and which follow the Westminster System, such as the United Kingdom and New Zealand, tend to follow the so-called agency-model of local governance: local government is regarded as an agent of central government and thus has little discretion to act beyond the direction given by central government. This model bears the danger of being detrimental to both local governance and democracy. A tightly controlled local council may overzealously enforce central government’s will to avoid its attention. It may thus become overly bureaucratic, to the detriment of its efficiency. A council on a tight leash will also diminish trust in local democracy. If local councillors are not free to represent their electorate, local elections are meaningless, and citizens become disengaged from local politics. This danger is illustrated in the events surrounding the Canterbury regional council in the late 2000s. After accusations that it managed its water resources inefficiently, Parliament ousted the elected councillors and replaced them with commissioners, even though matters had been improving for years. This paper will assess the effects the agency-model has on local governance and democracy.
CitationMueller S (2017). Local Democracy and the Agency Model of Local Governance. Journal of the Australasian Law Teachers Association. 10. 76-84.
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