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Changing Institutional Environments: Party Group Control & Goal Satisfying within a Parliamentary Separation of Powers

Open Panel

Abstract

In the United Kingdom Local Government Act 2000, central government mandated a change in constitutional arrangement within English local authorities. Through introducing a blended Parliamentary separation of powers to the majority of local authorities, with a leader, cabinet and overview and scrutiny committees (Select Committees), the legislation moved the constitutional structure from a form of assembly government, where councillors sat as collective decision-makers, to a Westminster-style split between those who make decisions and those who scrutinise those choices. One of the goals of the legislation was to remove the party group grip on decision-making. Given the evidence of the strength of party groups in local authorities (Maud 1967, Widdicombe 1986, Copus 1999a, Copus & Leach, 2004) there are questions but no clear answers about how group behaviour has changed since this legislation (OPDM, 2002, Ashworth 2003, ELGNCE, 2004, 2006). This research assesses the impact of the institutional change on the main political parties in local government. Due to the shift in the institutional environments for party groups, this thesis utilizes a rat. choice institutionalist approach to consider how the separation of powers has affected the behaviour of party groups. Using a mixed methods approach incorporating major survey research and case studies, the research has discovered that despite the reform to remove group influence on decision-making, the legislation served to make local government more, rather than less, prone to domination by specific party groups.