Local government

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LOCAL GOVERNMENT - the basic form of public authority decentralization, which consists of the performance of a substantial part of public tasks by local government units independently and at their own responsibility. L.g. units are selected by lawfully created local and regional communities (local community), in accordance with legal acts and with the use of direct democracy instruments (in particular → referendum), under the supervision (which presently means overseeing compliance with the law)of state administration bodies (→ supervision of local government). L.g. constitutes a vital instrument of socializing the exercise of public authority (in the broader sense) and at the same time, the implementation of the → principle of subsidiarity in the classic sense. The functioning of an appropriately strong l.g. is an international standard, in particular recognized in → the European Charter of Local Self-Government, ratified by the Republic of Poland in 1994. L.g. is an expression of a wider category of the vertical division of authority found in democratic countries along with the classic horizontal division (tripartite separation of powers). In a unitary (homogenous) state, such as the Republic of Poland, l.g. is territorially decentralized (in accordance with the Constitution of Poland the territorial system ensures the decentralization of public authority) part of executive power, and hence of → public administration. In federations and countries based on regional autonomy (Spain and Italy) territorial decentralization also includes the legislative authority, and in federations it may also apply to the judiciary. In larger countries, next to the – older - local government, in particular the municipal government, there is also the regional government. Since the restoration of local government in Poland in 1990, l.g. consists of → municipalities as basic units and (since 1999) → counties, along with the municipalities as units of local government, and (also since 1999) → voivodships as units of regional government. L.g. units have legal personality and their independence is subject to the constitutionally guaranteed judicial protection. L.g. entities are supervised by voivodes and the President of the Council of Ministers, and in financial matters → regional audit chambers. L.g. is appointed to perform public tasks in order to meet the needs of the local community – as → own tasks. In relation to these tasks a double presumption is assumed that corresponds to the essence of the principle of subsidiarity: l.g. performs public tasks that are not reserved by the Constitution or the law for other public authorities and the municipality performs all tasks of l.g. which are not reserved for other l.g. units. This means that in the case of county and voivodship tasks, these must be clearly specified by law (however the law on voivodship self-government gives overall competence with respect to the development of the voivodship), but the range of tasks of the municipality is defined in a general manner as all public affairs of local importance, not reserved by law for other entities, whilst narrowing their freedom of implementing tasks by the case-law of the supervisory bodies and the administrative courts. L.g. units should be equipped with means appropriate to the entrusted tasks (in accordance with the constitutional principle of appropriateness), which is not always the practice. Besides their own tasks l.g. units may have legally delegated specific government administration tasks (→ assigned tasks), and they may also, by way of agreements, take over the performance of other tasks lying in the scope of government administration and other l.g. units (→entrusted tasks). According to European tradition, the bodies of l.g. units are divided into constitutive and implementing bodies. → L.g. constitutive and audit bodies (municipality and county councils, voivodship sejmiks) are elected through universal elections, equal and direct, conducted by secret ballot. In the case of → l.g. implementing bodies, there is a fundamental difference between municipalities and other l.g. units: since 2002 in the communes the single person implementing authorities (village mayor/mayor/president of the city) are chosen in direct elections, whereas in counties and voivodships the boards, which are collegial bodies (chaired respectively by starosts and marshals), are traditionally chosen and dissolved by constitutive bodies [ H. Izdebski ].

Literature: B. User, Local government, Warsaw 2016; Encyclopedia of local government, K. Miaskowska-Daszkiewicz, B. Szmulik, Warsaw, Poland 2010; H. Izdebski, Local government. The base of the structure and activities, Warsaw, Poland-2014.