More than any other area of the constitution, local government has undergone constant change over the past two decades. The Conservative legislation introducing compulsory competitive tendering. replacing rates with first the community charge and then the council tax, the structuralreorganization of local councils (with the creation of unitary authorities), and the increasing emphasis on rights for users of local services have left an enduring legacy. The actions of some local authorities on the municipal left and the New Right have tested the legal limits of local democracyto the full. The new Labour government has initiated further changes with the `best value' regime, the reform of executive structures, and by introducing elected mayors and cabinets in local authorities, and new powers for councils to become `community leaders', working in partnership with otherpublic, private, and voluntary bodies within their areas. Moreover, other aspects of the constitutional reform programme, especially devolution, have substantial implications for local government. This new study assesses these and other developments in terms of the underlying questions they raise about the nature of local democracy and its legal recognition. The book considers the competing and legally interlocking claims of local representative democracy, financial accountability andconsumerism and their implications for the governing structures of local authorities and for local electors, councillors, taxpayers, the users of local services, and council employees. Finally, it asks whether the legal shape and powers of local government fit it for the changing role it is nowasked to play.