Collection: Local government finance - international lessons

From the basics of good financial management in local government to cross-country comparisons and lessons for the future, we have you covered.


What if local government was properly funded?

Finance for the future of local government

Our work with members around the world has shown that financing local government fairly, effectively and economically is one of the most difficult and contentious issues in local government. Even where local public services are well funded, individual localities may be dealing with a complex or piecemeal grants systems that prioritise the wrong things, have issues with capacity to spend well or issues around accountability and reporting.

In most of the world, though, the issue is not enough money and local governments may lack the flexibility or legal mandate to raise revenue sufficiently or fairly. And councils often miss out on the ability to use taxation as a policy tool.

Read on for international lessons and key resources for local government finance in Australia, Ireland and the UK.

Through our LGIU@40 campaign we’re looking at the five key questions about the future of local government. Join the conversation. 


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International lessons on finance

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Local government finance: a comparative study

The Local Democracy Research Centre has commissioned experts at the University of Northumbria, led by Dr Kevin Muldoon-Smith, to look at how local government is funded in different countries around the world. This is an introduction to that research with an overview to the funding systems in England, Germany, Italy and Japan. Read it here. 

A system wide perspective of local government finance in Italy

With wide tax raising powers, clear boundaries and a system designed to balance resources between richer and poorer local authorities, find out about Italy’s system for funding local government. Read the report. 

A system wide perspective of local government finance in Germany

This report focuses on the local government funding system in Germany. It is part of ongoing research by the LGIU’s Local Democracy Research Centre comparing funding systems in different countries. This is the second report from the comparative study. Read it here.

The limitations of local government finance in England: A system wide perspective

The first report from the comparative study looks at the English system of local public finances. For the last ten years we have been asking council leaders, chief executives, cabinet members for finance and section 151 officers their opinions on how local services are financed in England. This new report is the next step in our ongoing research into how local government finance could be different and better. Read it here.

Global Local: local government finance

In this edition, we extend our look at how local services are financed with lessons from systems around the world, resources and other research, innovative examples and reflections from this learning. Find out more.

Finding long-term financial sustainability

This briefing summarises our recent LGIU & VLGA Global Local Executive Panel, interrogates the topic of financial sustainability in local governments, and offers key insights into how council Chief Executives in the UK, Ireland and Australia face the growing challenge of sustainable local government finance. Read it here.

Local Government in Ireland: Not as badly off as I thought it was….

LGIU’s Commissioning Editor for Ireland reflects on the recently published research on local government finance and funding in England and wonders if the grass is not always so green. Read the article.

UK local government finance resources

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Backgrounder: the essentials of local government finance in England

This backgrounder provides newly-elected councillors (and anyone else who wants to brush up) with a short, non-technical introduction to the main features of local government finance in England. Get the essentials.

The State of Local Government Finance in England 2023

The Local Democracy Research Centre is conducting a major research project investigating the state of local government finance in England and the results of our annual finance survey. Read it here.

2023 Budget: a deeper dive into the implications for local government

This briefing looks at some of the details in the 2023 Budget that are of particular relevance to the local government community. It includes a short summary of the Budget’s economic context and refers to some subsequent relevant announcements. Dive in!

Accounts Commission 2023 Overview: is it time for radical thinking about local government finance?

This briefing explores the recommendations from Scotland’s Accounts Commission Local Government Overview 2023 in more detail and looks at some of the case studies published alongside the report that highlight examples of good practice. Read it here.

Council Tax – happy 30th anniversary or time for a change?

Ahead of the annual setting of council tax rates and in light of the 30th anniversary of the introduction of council tax in the UK, Michael Orton from the University of Warwick discusses the various options for updating the UK’s council tax system while evaluating the pros and cons of each. Read this article.

Local Government in Scotland – financial challenges, but councils are responding well

Amidst the gloom of a disappointing local government finance settlement, this briefing looks at the main findings of the recent financial bulletin 2021-22 and at how councils in Scotland are currently dealing with budget pressures while preparing for the challenges that lie ahead. Read this member only briefing.

Australian local government finance resources

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Federal Budget 2023-24

This news briefing looks at the key 2023-24 budget announcements that relate to local government in Australia. It is the first step in LGIU’s plan to unpack the key grants and funding programs available to local government. Read the briefing. Free with sign-in thanks to LGIU members.

Mayor of Glen Eira calls for major shake up of local government in Victoria

Cr. Jim Magee of the City of Glen Eira outlines the challenges for local government in Victoria and the need for change and funding reform. “Costs are increasing much quicker than local government can cover, and it’s putting services at risk.” Read this member article. 

Irish local government finance resources

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Rebuilding Ireland: Report by the Local Government Audit Service

A briefing in our series on the Local Government Audit Service (LGAS) value for money (VFM) unit reports: This one focuses on “Overview of Rebuilding Ireland Home Loans issued Authorities” and lessons for the new Local Authority Home Loans scheme. Read the briefing.

Budget 2023: Facing the challenges of an unstable world

A broad summary of the 2023 Budget and how local government in Ireland has fared in a country that seems to have managed to cut taxes, raise spending, deal in part with inflation and international political conditions, and still run a surplus! Read the briefing.

Entrepreneurialism in a perma-crisis

Read an interview with Dr Pat Daly, the Chief Executive of Limerick City and County Council on the challenges (and rewards) of leading in during a time of huge ambition and investment.

The financial performance of local government in Ireland

Key findings from the  Local Government Audit Service report on the financial performance and audit issues of local authorities in Ireland. Read the briefing.