Regional and Local Government – Summary of the PSG Activities (2010-2013)

The EGPA Study Group on Regional and Local Government (PSG V) met for the first time in 2010 under the central theme ‘Regional and Local Governments territorially challenged’. Various papers were presented, covering issues arising from the changing management structures and processes on the sub-central level, the political and bureaucratic imperatives behind these reorganizations, the tensions between those imperatives and citizens’ attachment to place and the impact of the changing financial climate on these relationships. This first meeting laid the foundation of a better theoretical understanding of these issues and paved the way towards more comparative research.

Cross-country similarities and differences were further identified throughout the PSG’s second meeting in 2011. Scholars extensively debated the re-structuring of European sub-central government questioning its external drivers (such as maintaining economic competitiveness, reducing public expenditure), its internal modalities (including partnerships, inter-municipal agreements, informal cooperation) and its impact upon the power distribution between the different levels of government (more centralization/localization, performance assessment, …). All over Europe, local and regional governments are confronted with increasing financial pressure, thus emphasizing the relevance of further exploring the ongoing sub-central reform wave. Based on the results of the 2011 meeting and a number of additional contributions the PSG chairs submitted a proposal for a Special Issue on “RESTRUCTURING PUBLIC FUNCTIONS IN MULTI-LEVEL-SYSTEMS: FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE?” to the International Review of Administrative Sciences that has been accepted and the individual papers of which are currently under review.

In 2012, the PSG called for papers to broaden the empirical and theoretical understanding of ‘sub-national management and modernization under austerity’. The papers presented covered a wide array of functional, managerial, financial, structural and/or jurisdictional issues, reforms and challenges on the regional and local level. From a country-wide perspective, ongoing sub-central developments are often complementary but conflicting at the same time. And this challenged our PSG’s attempt (as well as anyone else’s) to point out cross-European patterns and types of sub-central reform, undertaken during the third meeting with the politico-administrative state tradition as point of departure.

The EGPA Study Group on Regional and Local Government met in 2013 under the central theme of ‘Local and Regional Public Sector Reform in a Time of Crisis: Drivers, Stakeholders and Impacts of Modernization from a European Comparative Perspective’. The point of departure of this meeting was the observation that local governments all over Europe are in a period of increased reform activity and intensity, not least of all because in some countries they have been the level of government most seriously affected by the still expanding global financial and economic crisis. They are simultaneously faced by a variety of – partly contradictory – reform pressures, often aimed at conflicting reform objectives. Thus the overarching question of the sessions was: “Which approaches and effects of local public sector reform can be identified in different European countries and/or from an international comparative perspective; how can these be explained and what (intended/un-intended) impacts have resulted from the reforms?” The 2013 meeting was explicitly linked to the COST Action IS 1207 on ‘Local Public Sector Reforms: An International Comparison’ (http://www.uni-potsdam.de/ls-kuhlmann/cost.html; http://www.cost.eu/domains_actions/isch/Actions/IS1207?management).

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

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