Public Services, Efficiency and Local Democracy
An influential argument used to justify local government is the claim that it is more efficient than a centralised system (see, for example, Sharpe, 1970). This justification for traditional patterns of local government in Britain has been challenged by central government since 1979, and by the rise of ‘new right’ thinking with its emphasis on market solutions to problems of public service management. Put simply, the argument has been that public services will only be efficient if they are subject to market pressures, which can be achieved by making citizens into consumers with choice, able to take their business from one provider to another. It is not then necessary for government to be local, because the centre can set standards for a disaggregated system of market-based administration, and efficiency will be ensured by the normal market processes of exit and choice, as well as inspection and regulation.
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