Local Government | Definition, Functions & Features
The local government is another area of study in public administration. In this article, the emphasis will be on the meaning, types, purposes, functions, sources of revenue, control of local government, the problems and reforms of local government.
Meaning Of Local Government
Local government has been defined in several ways and the meaning adopted in a country often reflects the particular local environment.
The Guidelines For Local Government Reforms in Nigeria (1976), for example, define the local government as “government at local level exercised through representative councils established by law to exercise specific functions within defined areas…” In the same vein, Jaeobsen and Lipman conceptualise the local government as a subordinate territorial unit that owes its creation and existence to a state and that derives its powers from general laws or from charters or other specific grants made by a state.
Local governments are, therefore, semi-autonomous bodies created by the central government to undertake certain local functions within their respective areas of jurisdiction.
Characteristics Of Local Government
The following are some of the characteristics of local government, which can be inferred from the above definitions.
Local governments are created by the central(state) government.
They are created under a law made by the legislature.
A local government is neither sovereign nor independent.
Local governments depend on the central government for some of their revenue.
It is the government that derives its powers from the local people.
The need to satisfy the demand of the local people for self-government in local matters may lead to the creation of a local government.
It is easier for local administrative bodies to handle local problems than the central government, and as such, administrative convenience may be a primary motive for the creation of local governments.
Local governments may free the central government from local issues, which may slow down the pace of national development.
The local government system encourages local democracy.
The local government is a training ground for future national leaders.
The will of the people is enhanced and advanced when there is local government.
Powers Of The Local Government
With the creation of local government through an Act of Parliament, the following powers can be exercised.
Making of bye-laws: The legislative arm of local government is involved in making of bye-laws. The essence and effect of these laws are only felt within the local government concern.
Power to punish offenders: They can punish those who violate the laws made. They are tried in customary courts within the set up.
Imposition of levy: They can impose levy on the people for some specific purposes.
Reasons For The Creation Of Local Government
Bringing government nearer to the people: This is done, so that, those at the grassroots will be part of the government. This system is good for a large country like United States and Nigeria.
Local participation: This is to provide opportunities for the local people to participate in the politics of their country.
Even development: Creation of local governments provided the avenue for even development of all parts of the country.
Diverse interests: The interests of the local people differ, and to cater for these interests, was the creation of local governments.
Agents of central and state governments: Local government acts as agents of central and state governments in the implementation of policies e.g. maintenance of law and order.
Provision of essential service: The creation is also to complement the efforts of central and stategovernments in the provision of essential services to the local populace.
Employment: They can also provide employment at the local level.
Community development: They can equally provide opportunity for local participation in community development projects.
Training and development of future political leaders: These are made possible at the grassroots by the creation of local governments.
Shortage of trained personnel: Acute shortage of trained and experienced personnel affect the efficiency of local govemments.
Shortage of fund: Most local government do not have enough funds with which to operate. They have enormous responsibilities before them but they lack fund.
Political interference: Both the military and civilian government have at different times interfered with the activities of the local government.
Bribery and corruption: Some officials demand and even take bribe before performing their offlcial functions.
Embezzlement of public fund: Some of the officials involved in revenue collection embezzle part of this fund for their own selfish ends.
Granting of undue favour: Some local government officials use their positiohs to give undue favour to their friends, for example in the award of contracts.
Political victimization: Most local government are victimised politically, and frustrated, especially if, they are not in the good books, of the ruling political party.
Tribalism, nepotism and favouritism: These are the order of the day in terms of appointment, transfer, discipline and promotion of staff.
Low incentive: The incentive to work is low, leading to poor attitude to work of local government staff.
Suggested Solutions To The Problems Of Local Government
Improvement on method of revenue generation: The method of revenue generation has to be overhauled. Honest and capable hands should be used in the collection of rates and other levies.
In-service training: Most of the workers should be given the opportunity to further their training in local government administration.
Provision of enough fund: Enough fund should be provided to the Local government. This would help to tackle most of the responsibilities facing them. For example in the provision of infrastructural facilities like; roads, library services and electricity.
Allocation: The government should increase the allocation from federal revenue accounts to local governments. This will help to boost their financial base.
Tribalism, nepotism and favouritism: should be discouraged and recruitment of workers into local governments, to be based on merits.
Provision of grants: Grants (from state and central governments) to local government should be enough and regular too.
Auditing: Auditing should be done regularly in order to enhance efficient and sound financial managements.
Access to loan: Loan should not be made difficult for the local government.
Activities: The activities of local government should not be politically motivated.
More avenues for revenue generation: They should go into more commercial ventures in order to improve on their financial base.