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This paper traces the history of local government in England (as opposed to the United Kingdom) since the early nineteenth century, and explores five long-term trends in its evolution. These are path dependence; the occurrence of major structural change; the phenomenon of policy reversal; the treatment of urban areas; and resistance to regional government. The author concludes that throughout the period under study, policy towards local government has exhibited a ‘pendulum effect’, with two opposing emphases operating in a sequential, rather than a simultaneous manner.
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