Local Governance Research Unit


Consultancy, research and policy-advice to councils and others concerned with aspects of local governance.

Political and Constitutional Reform Committee

Prospects for codifying the relationship between central and local government.

Consitutional Committee

The first annual research report for the Department has been published.


Internationally recognised centre of excellence on local government

The Local Governance Research Unit, based at Leicester Business School, is an internationally recognised centre of excellence for theoretically informed, robust and rigorous policy relevant research into British and comparative local governance. Our international and comparative work focuses on public governance, local political leadership and local politics, community cohesion and local citizenship, neighbourhood governance, local democracy and local politics. We also have a broad research interest in all aspects of local governance. Our high-quality research meets the needs of academics, policy-makers and practitioners at the international, national, regional and local level. We are committed to providing a strong and vibrant link between academic research and the needs of the research user.

The Unit undertakes research for a wide variety of bodies, ranging from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), to pan-European bodies such as the Council of Europe, through to Government departments, such as the Department of Communities and Local Government. We also provide consultancy, research and policy-advice to individual councils and others concerned with aspects of local governance.

We are actively involved in supporting the research of two Parliamentary Select committees: the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee and the Communities and Local Government Committee.

The LGRU has strong research links with other leading universities in the UK and across Europe and the USA.  We are key participants in a number of international research projects and research networks. Members of the Unit are editors of international journals, members of editorial boards and of international and national expert advisory committees and directors and convenors of academic committees. Unit members are regular presenters at a range of academic and policy conferences and are at the forefront of academic and policy debates.  

Professional and Executive Policy Seminar Series  


Recent Policy Papers:

Paper 1: Aspects of the Coalition Government Policy Paper 2: Codifying the Relationship Between Central and Local Government


Political Studies Association: Local Politics Group Ghent University: Centre for Local Politics Political Studies Association Interpretive Political Science Group Local Government Association Local Government Information Unit


The Voice of the Counciller: Final Reports 2017



The Unit Director, Professor Colin Copus, was a key note speaker at an event organised by Dublin City University on the New Politics and Policy in the City - Mayoral Governance of the Dublin City Region. Professor Copus spoke about the strength of the mayoral model in enhancing public accountability, linking citizens to local political leaders, raising the profile and visibility of local leaders and providing business and other organisations with a clear point of contact for local leadership. The audience included councillors from all the parties on the council, other local politicians, senior officials and academics.  The meeting expressed support for an elected mayor for Dublin as a new model of local government. Time will tell if the political will exists to see such a change in the governance of Dublin. Other speakers included the LGRU’s good friend and colleague Aodh Quinlivan Director, Centre for Local and Regional Governance (CLRG) University College Cork.

In September, prof Colin Copus spent a day working with the mayor and cabinet in Torbay on developing mayoral governance, as part of a Local Government Association peer review programme with the authority.  He explored with the mayor and cabinet their policy programme and how to implement that programme over  the mayor’s remaining term of office. The following day, Prof Copus  ran a training programme with councillors from Torbay on enhancing their role in public and executive accountability, citizen representation and scrutiny, as part of the same LGA peer review programme.  


Professor Colin Copus and Dr Arianna Giovannini were key-note speakers at an event organised by the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons, to explore, with Key stake-holders from across the West Midlands, the impact of devolution and how it relates to regeneration, economic growth and central-local relations. Colin and Arianna spoke about the need for devolution to go much further than it so far has, for imagination and boldness in the deal making process and for the new elected mayors to have sufficient powers to be able bring about change and improvement across the region. They both emphasised the need for the public to be fully engaged in the devolution process which had so far not occurred as devolution deals had been developed across the country and for effective scrutiny of the combined authorities to be at the heart of the new structures and processes.

The event was supported by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and hosted by Wolverhampton City Council. 

Colin and Arianna are shown here next to Meg Hillier MP, the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee and Martin Reeves, Chief Executive, Coventry City Council and Chief Executive of the WMCA.


LGRU Activities

Professor Colin Copus, was an invited key note speaker at the #Notwestminster conference on 13 February 2016 at The Media Centre in Huddersfield. #Notwestminster is a group dedicated to the redesign and strengthening of local democracy and to encouraging civic engagement and public participation. Professor Copus was asked to speak on the theme of his book: In Defence of Councillors. You can view his passionate defence of councillors, here:

Councillor Commission

Publication of Interim Report – October 2016

The Commission has now published its interim report which can be found here. The interim report sets out our initial findings and some of the general themes and trends that have emerged. We would welcome any comments or responses to the report and its contents and the submission of further evidence, all of which can be emailed direct to councillors@dmu.ac.uk. We are hoping that the interim report will stimulate further debate that will inform the publication of our final report in the early part of next year.

The terms of Reference of the Commission are:

The quality and effectiveness of local government and local democracy rests on the contribution made to both by councillors as elected representatives. The office of councillor is one of the most fundamental political positions in any democracy and it is the political office through which localities, and the communities within them, are able to govern themselves. Councillors live in close proximity to those they govern, represent and serve and they are part of the communities about whom and for whom they make political decisions that will have lasting consequences for local well-being.

The Local Government Research Unit has launched a Councillor Commission to conduct an independent review of the role and work of the councillor and of the contribution made by councillors to the governance of their communities and the country. The Commission’s aim is to provide policy-makers, that take decisions about the structure, function, role and purpose of local government and democracy, with a better understanding of the office of councillor and of the contribution councillors make to their communities. Its aim is also to further public and policy debate and understanding about local government and local democracy.

To explore and consider the roles, functions, tasks, responsibilities and powers of the councillor so as to assess their relevance and effectiveness in enabling councillors to sustain a viable system of local democracy, local leadership and local government. It will examine the daily experiences of the councillor in their office as a politician and representative, to understand how far and to what effect councillors can shape their communities and the actions, activities and polices of private and public organisations operating within and beyond the boundaries of the council. The commission will examine the quality of support councillors receive from their councils in conducting their activities and examine ways of strengthening and enhancing the role and status of the office of councillor.

The Commissioners

The Commissioners are as follows:

Colin Copus (Chair) (Professor of Local Politics, De Montfort University)

Sir Merrick Cockell (Chairman, UK Municipal Bonds Agency plc and London Pensions Fund Authority)

Jessica Crowe (London Borough of Sutton Executive Head of Customers, Commissioning and Governance)

Councillor Mike Evans (Whiteley Town Council) nominated by the National Association of Local Councils

Heather Jameson (Editor, Municipal Journal)

Jacqui Mckinley (Executive Director, Centre for Public Scrutiny)

Lord Gary Porter (Chairman of the Local Government Association)

Anthony Zacharzewski (Director, Democratic Society)

Cllr Mike Evans (Whiteley Town Council) (Nominated by National Association of Local Councils) 

The work of the Commission is being supported by Clive Betts, MP, Chair of the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee. Although the Commission is independent of the committee it will submit its final report to the chair of the committee for consideration.


18 December 2015: Formal Launch and call for evidence

January to December 31st 2016: Collection of evidence through formal written submissions and workshops with councillors and other interested parties

October 2016: Interim report

Early 2017: Final report


Submitting Evidence

Written evidence can be submitted direct to the Commission at any stage during the inquiry using the following email address: councillors@dmu.ac.uk

A series of regional workshop and evidence gathering events will be organised throughout the inquiry and to express an interest in participating in these please contact Professor Colin Copus or Suzanne Walker (see below)

Further Information

For further information on the work of the Commission or about submitting evidence, contact Professor Colin Copus: ccopus@dmu.ac.uk or Rachel Wall p11247194@dmu.ac.uk

If you wish to use a pro-forma to submit written evidence please click on this link to download the form to completed and email to councillors@dmu.ac.uk

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