In studies on central-local relations it is common to assess local autonomy in a deductive way. The extent of local autonomy is determined by measuring the central legal and financial competence, after which the remaining room for local decision-making is determined. The outcome of this indirect method is that the autonomy of local government tends to be systematically underestimated. As an alternative this paper introduces a decision-making approach in which local decisions are systematically weighed on three dimensions: Agenda setting, freedom in choices, and dependency. Using Dutch data, the authors come to the conclusion that a locally oriented perspective leads to a more accurate and positive judgement of the autonomy of local government. © 2006 Taylor & Francis.