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Local authority expenditure and public attitudes

Tait, Alan A. (1977) Local authority expenditure and public attitudes. Quarterly Economic Commentary, 2 (4). pp. 36-52. ISSN 0306-7866

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There is widespread criticism of the growth of local authority expenditure. Regional reorganisation has not enabled "citizens and their elected representatives to have a sense of common purpose" (1). If anything, there is "the feeling of many people that local government cannot help them, and the frequent sense of frustration among councillors and officers,"(2) which was the " failing" , (the Radcliffe-Maud Report's own expression), the local authority reform was designed to eradicate. This article briefly reviews the evidence of recent local authority growth in Scotland. A natural hypothesis would be that increased expenditure in real terms would increase the satisfaction of the consumers of local authorities' goods and services. A description and evaluation of survey evidence on voters' changing attitudes towards, and their satisfaction with, the goods and services provided by Scottish local authorities, refutes this hypothesis. The problem is considered in the context of recent debates on the overall growth of the public sector and an alternative diagnosis and solution is outlined.