In her maiden speech in the House of Commons in February 1960, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher introduced a Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Bill whose purpose, she asserted, was 'that of guarding the rights of members of the public by enabling the fullest information to be obtained for them in regard to the actions of their representatives upon local authorities'. This private member's Bill was amended, then passed by Parliament and came into force in June 1961. Open government as envisaged by the 1960 Thatcher Act is the subject of this thesis. Its practice is studied in the early 1970s in four English boroughs - Ipswich, West Bromwich, Bolton and Preston. Each council had a different variant of holding council and/or committee meetings open to the public and/or press, and of appointing dedicated press relations officers to spotlight openness. The impact of Labour or Conservative Party control of the borough councils on open government is assessed. A total of 55 councilors, town clerks and other officers in the four boroughs were interviewed and 181 respondents serving as elected councilors returned mail questionnaires which explored the relationship between local authorities, the public and the press. Contrasting perceptions of participatory democracy and openness at the local level emerge, this study finds, consistent with the opaque character of Thatcher's 1960 Bill.
|School:||University of Essex (United Kingdom)|
|Source:||DAI-A 78/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Political science, Public administration|
|Keywords:||Borough Councils, Communications, Local Government, Open Government, Press, Public Participation|
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