Types of Local Government

Professor Harold Alderfer classified types of local government into four basic types namely, the French type, the English type, the Communist type and the Traditional type.

The French Type: in the French type, the local government is an extension of the central government. The staffs of the local government are part of the staff of the central government and therefore civil servant. The local government has a council headed by a Mayor. The council is subordinated to the Prefect who is civil servant and the central government representatives.

The prefect has powers to direct and control the council. He must approve the council policies and bye-laws before they can have any effect. He has the power to veto any decision of the council. The Prefect is an experienced professionally qualified administrative officer.

An example of the French type is the French system. Here in Nigeria, the divisional administrative system of the former East Central State is a very good example of the French type.

The English Type: the most important characteristics feature in the English type is local autonomy. The council has control over its entire staffs that are in fact local government staff. The local government staff in order to ensure this autonomy is either recruited directly by the local government as in Britain or by the local government service commission as in Nigeria.

However, the autonomy of the local government which is exercised by the elected council is never absolute. The central government has some measure of control, which varies from country to country. This type of control is not intended to remove the autonomy but to serve as a system of checks and balances.

An example of this type is the British local government system. The country council system of the former eastern Nigeria and the local government system under the 1976 local government reform are further examples.

The Communist type: the communist type is characterized by ‘democratic centralism’. Democratic centralism is a socialist principle that policy making should be made by few leaders at the top after proper debate and agreement between them and then imposed on the rank and file below.

The communist type is also characterized by party leadership and direction. More importantly, the communist type is characterized by planning for social and economic development of the local government area which forms part of the national planning. In the communist type therefore, there is no local autonomy.

Every local government should work in conformity with the socialist ideology, principles and values. An example of this type is the USSR local government system.

The Traditional type: the traditional type of local government is the local government system that adopts entirely indigenous political institutions and culture. It is system, which is neither western nor eastern Europe. The traditional type is one, which does not copy from any of the modern local government system.

Such type operates with a traditional ruler – Emir, among the Hausa/Fulani of the Northern Nigeria. The Oba with his Chiefs among the Yoruba people of Western Nigeria and Chief with his Council of Elders, Age Grades and Popular Assembly in Igbo land of Eastern Nigeria; however, there is no place where the traditional type exists today without any influence from the modern types.

These are the four types of local government according to Professor Harold Alderfer.

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