Liddle, J. (2007), "Local Government in the United Kingdom (4th ed.)", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 20 No. 5, pp. 465-466. https://doi.org/10.1108/09513550710772558
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
This highly impressive, revised and updated fourth edition of Local Government in the UK is a “must have” for all academics and students studying public administration in general, and local government, more particularly. It is, quite simply, the definitive book on local government, and as the reviewers of previous editions suggest, it is also very comprehensive, accessible, a standard text, and deserves to be on all specialists bookshelves. More than this, however, it will be of immense use as a reference book for both practitioners and politicians who may be grappling to understand and make sense of the innumerable, dynamic changes that the UK local government system has undergone in the recent past. It will be of interest to international scholars too, as it very effectively sets the UK system in comparative context, and for good measure gives the readers the added benefits of a golden thread of scepticism and a dose of humour throughout.
Drawing on their intimate depth of knowledge and wide experience gained from working closely with officers and politicians, David Wilson and Chris Game, which this book must certainly re‐confirm as the leading local government academics in the UK, stamped their authority on the book from the outset. Not only that, but a book of this nature, given the material content could so easily have been a descriptive account of some of the major shifts, but its scope is staggering and the coverage bang up‐to‐date. There are so many impressive inclusions, such as the graphics on media watch, discretion; A‐A of council services; balance of funding reform; professional bodies; and, definitions of voluntary and community sectors. There are just too many good things to list, and this confirms for me that this book is more than just a book on UK local government, as it covers so many areas not traditionally dealt with in a book of this type.
It provides a deep insight of, not only the mechanics, operation, and relationships between UK central and local government, but the authors are keenly aware of the importance of politics, personalities and processes involved. It is full of stories of who was involved, how changes were introduced, and what the challenges and oppositions were, so it provides a blow by blow account of some significant episodes in the trajectory of UK central and local government inter‐connections and inter‐relations.
There are so many excellent aspects to this challenging book, that I found myself re‐reading sections just for the fun of it, and just to refresh my memory on certain elements of changes I thought I knew of, but realised had been long forgotten. It is therefore, so difficult to highlight any particular part of the book above others, as the whole book is a synthesis of new and old information, galloping along at massive speed, with the authors providing critical analysis, evaluation and argument on an expansive set of data. Much of the potentially difficult to understand information is contained in very useful graphics, tables and charts to accompany the text. The book is jam packed with new data, and continually reminds us certain aspects of local government, just in case we had missed a particular titbit over recent past.
Part one is focused on the basics, part two on the dynamic drivers, and part three on the agenda for change. The book is also supported by a useful web site, guides to further reading and relevant updating materials at the end of each chapter.
It is such an enjoyable read, and confirms for me that, as the authors assert on page five, the world of local government is far from the narrow, uniform and dull misconception that most people believe it to be. This book is a timely reminder that the opposite is true, and as such it is a remarkable tome. It should remain on the library and personal bookshelves for a very long time to come. I urge everyone who is interested in UK local government, to buy their own copy, as they will be surprised at just how fascinating a world it is. If this does not switch undergraduate and postgraduate students on to wanting to find out more about the topic, then I really don't know what will.