Charging policies for local government : rationale, philosophy, practice
This thesis provides a comprehensive examination of the potential for the increased use of charges for local government services. It eschews a simplistic aggregate market-based analogy, adopting instead a service by service approach which takes full account of service objectives. It avoids an overly descriptive approach and develops its own rationale and methodology. Practice can then be considered in a situationally relevant context. Part 1 criticises economic theory's conception of the public sector and the distorted meaning of efficiency which results. The market-based analogy has led central government policy up a cul-de-sac where increasing centralism exacerbates the fundamental problems inherent in any system of collective choice, leading to increased central-local tensions and further centralism. Part 2 provides an overview of the use of charges by local government and reviews charging methodologies previously propounded. Besides being arbitrary, they are methodologically deficient because they are based on incomplete analysis of individual and collective interests. They assume a clear delineation can be made between the collective/ objective interest and the individual/ subjective interest, tax finance for the former and user charges for the latter. A new methodology is proposed which synthesises individual and collective perspectives, namely customised value added services. Part 3 applies the new methodology to a wide range of local government services, three in-depth case studies followed by more concise consideration of other services. Provision of physical structures (roads, schools and other capital facilities) is considered as well as services to identifiable individuals (leisure and recreation, housing etc). A consistent blend of theory and practice provides a policy relevant, evolutionary, incremental approach to a selective, sensitive expansion in the use of service charges. The overriding aim is to improve equity and increase access to impoved quality of service, not simply to raise revenue nor to deter or ration use.