Regional and Local Government – Future Plans and Strategies

a)     Strategic Partnership and collaboration with the COST Action IS 1207 “Local Public Sector Reforms: an International Comparison –LocRef”

The collaboration with the COST Action IS 1207 “Local Public Sector Reforms: an International Comparison –LocRef” is one of the strategic objectives of the Permanent Study Group V for the period 2014-2017. The resaerch topics and the participating scholars of PSG V and LocRef show many overlaps. Therefore the close collaboration of the two networks promises a multitute of synergies and mutual enrichments. LocRef is an EU-funded international research network on local public sector reforms with more than 100 senior and early stage researchers in 27 countries chaired by Sabine Kuhlmann (Action Chair) and Geert Bouckaert (Vice-Chair); Martin Laffin and Ellen Wayenberg are Chairs/Co-Chairs of LocRef Working Groups; many LocRef members are also PSGV members. LocRef brings together researchers and practitioners of all stages of local public sector reforms in order to jointly assess the hitherto scattered and dispersed information bases on local public sector reforms, to generate new comparative knowledge, and develop policy-relevant frameworks for the design of future modernization processes in Europe. The collaboration between PSG V and LocRef include inter alia joint workshops and conferences, PhD training schools, high level seminars, short term scientific missions for PSG-members (research stays for scholars in partner institutions), joint publications and policy papers. This collaboration also provides an excellent platform for promoting the careers of young and early stage researchers.

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b)     Publication Strategy

The Special Issue on “ RESTRUCTURING PUBLIC FUNCTIONS IN MULTI-LEVEL-SYSTEMS: FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE?” has been accepted for publication in IRAS. It will be finalized during the upcoming months after the revision of the individual papers currently under review. The Special Issue aims to analyze impacts of de-/recentralization reforms on the local level. The reform results and effects on the local and regional institutions are placed in the very centre of scrutiny. On the one hand a wave of enthusiasm tends to accompany the international discussion. In the context of development politics as well as in developed countries, decentralization is approved as having a key role to play in the attainment of “good governance”. It promises to bring the state closer to the citizen, to enhance efficiency and effectiveness in the provision of public services, and also to promote accountability and participation (for an overview, see Treisman 2007: 1-14). Reformers assume that the re-allocation of tasks from upper to lower levels of government makes a real difference in the provision of public services. On the other hand, the implementation of delegated state tasks can also fuel competing priorities and create erosions in the original local-self government task portfolios. This leaves little (fiscal) room for manoeuvering while local governments’ autonomy and discretion tend to be seriously threatened (cf. Holtkamp 2010). There is also the enticement on the part of state governments to offload an ever increasing amount of responsibilities to overtask the local levels of government. Such circumstances lead to legitimate criticisms that decentralization processes produce increasing performance disparities within local sub-state jurisdictions since the effects unfold to reinforce the already existing differences among the relevant decentralized bodies and actors. Against this background some countries have embarked on new strategies of re-centralization. However, until now, most of the analytical perspective tended to focus disproportionately on investigations into de/re-centralization policy as a dependent variable. There are extensive accounts of the reform motives, goals and actors, policy development and state of implementation (Goldsmith/Page 2010; Ongaro et al 2011; Swianiewicz 2010; Knoepfel 2009). Much less is known about the impact that de-/recentralization has (had), in particular upon the sub-central governments involved. How does it affect regional and local governments? Do they merely impact upon the latter as intended and foreseen? Or do these reforms also have unintended outcomes on the sub-central level? And, most importantly, what factors explain their sub-central impact?  Briefly, what are the effects that de-/recentralization have on the actual functioning, the institutional reality and the performance of local and regional governments? From this analytical perspective institutional reforms in the intergovernmental setting are perceived as the independent variable the outcomes of which are under investigation. The Special Issue attempts to filter out the specific conditions for the impacts of de-/recentralization for different political-institutional settings/countries and different policies. A distinction is made between country-specific factors (politico-administrative system, administrative culture etc.), policy-specific factors (characteristics of the devolved tasks) and context factors (fiscal situation, external pressures; social environment).

COST Action IS 1207 ‘Local Public Sector Reforms: An International Comparison (LocRef)’

General Information Leaflet

Focus and Issues

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