Local government may be defined as a government established through an Actof Parliament at the local level and to deal with specific matters as it affects them.
The essence of local government creation is to involve local participation in the affairs of their country. Not only that, to bring them into the realms of politics at the grassroots. Most modern states and governments embrace three or two tiers of government, for example, central, state or regional and local governments.
The powers of government and administration are therefore made relevant at the local level. Local government are created through a document called ‘lnstrument’. They are created like corporate bodies because they had legal existence. They could sue and be sued.
The functions which are performed by the local government include the following:
1 – Maintenance of law and Order
A basic function of any government is the maintenance of public order. At the local level, the local councils help the central government to maintain law and order.
2 – Administration of Justice
To a large extent, local governments are vested with judicial power. In this regard, they assist in protecting the rights and privileges of the people. In Nigeria, for example, local councils operate minor courts such as customary courts which help to relieve the higher courts the large burden of outstanding litigation. But what goes on in some of these minor courts is unsavoury as the rules are sometimes bent for private gains.
3 – Making of by Bye-laws
Local government has minor legislative powers to make bye-lawe. They make bye laws on subjects within their legislative competence such as the allocation and use of markets, registration of births, deaths and marriages and control of motor parks.
4 – Provision Essential Service
A local government provides basic social services such as schools, health centres, markets, minor roads, drains, cemeteries and motor parks. As said before, the local councils in Britain deal with primary and secondary education. In Nigeria, primary education is the responsibility of both state and local governments with support from the Federal Government.
5 – Assisting in Execution of Central Government’s Political Objectives
Local governments assist the central government in the implementation of the latter’s political objectives. By so doing, they help to bring the government nearer to the people. Such political objectives include political education for local and prospective national leaders, diffusion of political power on an area basis, local self-determination and inculcation of the noble ideals of impartiality, protection of minority rights and integrity, all of which were considered essential to the evolution of a liberal democratic society.
6 – Assisting in Implementation of Development Policies
The local government helps the central government to carry out its national development plans and policies at the local level. That is, they serve as an instrument for social-economic development in their area of jurisdiction.
Local government helps to educate the people about government policies and programmes.
8 – Mobilization of the People
The central government often relies on local governments to mobilize the people in support of government policies and programmes or to carry out self-help projects. No government can, on its own, provide all the needs of the people and it is important that the local people are encouraged to come together to do certain things for themselves.
9 – Collection of Revenue
A local government collects various taxes or fees either for its own use or on behalf of the central government. But as pointed out by Ronald Wraith, the size, and more particularly, the population of a local government determine the level of its revenue. This in turn will determine what it is capable and what it is not capable of doing.