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Local government is a generic term for the lowest tiers of public administration within a particular sovereign state. This particular usage of the word government refers specifically to a level of administration that is both geographically localised and has limited powers. While in some countries, "government" is normally reserved purely for a national administration (government) (which may be known as a central government or federal government), the term local government is always used specifically in contrast to national government – as well as, in many cases, the activities of sub-national, first-level administrative divisions (which are generally known by names such as cantons, provinces, states, oblasts, or regions). Local governments generally act only within powers specifically delegated to them by law and/or directives of a higher level of government. In federal states, local government generally comprises a third or fourth tier of government, whereas in unitary states, local government usually occupies the second or third tier of government.
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The question of municipal autonomy is a key question of public administration and governance. Local elections are held in many countries. The institutions of local government vary greatly between countries, and even where similar arrangements exist, the terminology often varies. Common designated names for local government entities include state, province, region, canton, department, county, prefecture, district, city, township, town, borough, parish, municipality, shire, village, ward, local service district and local government area.