Developing local sovereignty using an example of local autonomy in England

Public Relations Office        March 21, 2013

Toshihiko Ishihara, professor of the Institute of Business and Accounting, Professional Graduate School

With Brian Adam (Left)

“Slow life is wonderful as well as life with competition.” In the lifestyle of English people, competition, market principles and quality of life are well balanced. Many English people finish their business life in London in their 30s and 40s and start their country life as early as possible. The transition of people from urban areas such as London to the countryside provides leaders for community building to peaceful country towns.

In Japan, one ideal of local sovereignty, “local communities making decisions for themselves by themselves,” has spread rapidly after the change of Japanese government. Visions for realizing this ideal are being made and amendments to the Local Autonomy Law are underway in local sovereignty strategic meetings and local administrative and financial review meetings held by the government. To realize local sovereignty, it is essential to nurture leaders in local communities and have the idea that more and more people should participate in public activities.

Many local assembly members in England take leading roles in local activities as volunteers while engaged in their work and house chores. Since they can’t convene in the daytime because of their work, in many cases municipal assemblies and committee meetings are held at night. A professor at University of Birmingham, who is my friend, leaves his office around 4:00 in the afternoon at least once a week in order to participate in an assembly. Many local assembly people are engaged in such activities as volunteers, with the idea that being an assembly member is a vocation becoming less common when you move to the countryside.

In England, the head of a municipality is elected from the assembly members. However, fulfilling his/her responsibilities as the head of the municipality while still maintaining his/her job is not an easy task. Thus, the head of a municipality employs professional personnel for municipality management (chief executive officer) and delegates his/her authority for daily management tasks to these personnel with agreement from the ruling party in the assembly. For the secretary general, a chartered public financial accountant is selected in many cases. About 5,000 municipal employees obtained an accountant’s license after they were employed, which is a unique feature that is not seen in Japan. In local sovereignty in England, the volunteer spirit of local residents and assembly members and the professions of accounting and financial management play very important roles.

In Scotland, which is famous for Scotch whisky, haggis and bagpipes, the Scottish National Party is the ruling party of the assembly, even though it doesn’t account for a large majority of the assembly. The underlying elements are the high intention of residents to join public activities and the presence of professionals for local community management to balance economic development and maintenance of tradition and culture. This February, Brian Adam, Leader of the House in the National Party government in Scotland, visited Japan and exchanged ideas with Mr. Keiji Yamada, Governor of Kyoto Prefecture, and Mr. Seiji Osaka, assistant to the prime minister. We expect that their dialogue brought forth some important hints for local sovereignty in Japan.

Profile of Toshihiko Ishihara

Doctor of Commercial Science, Certified Public Accountant and a guest professor of the Public Policy Studies Course, University of Birmingham, England. Born in Osaka City in 1960 and graduated from the School of Economics, Kwansei Gakuin University. He is engaged in studying the management of local governments in England, focusing on accounting, auditing and financial management, based on the idea that introducing the concept of business management into municipalities in Japan is essential. He is the first Japanese to serve as an English government-chartered public financial accountant and also as a member of local administrative and financial review meetings conducted by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. He also established a network of about 800 local government employees all over Japan as a representative of the Forum of KGPM (Kwansei Gakuin Performance Management).