Focus: Local Governance

Introduction

Local governments in Europe are facing many new challenges. They constitute the level of government that has faced the most seriously the recent and global financial crisis. They must restructure themselves to deal with budgetary cut downs. By local government we refer here to all sub-national units of governance either exclusively urban, like city councils, or mostly rural, like regional governments. Their shapes widely differ but all local governments have in common to be subordinated to a sovereign state even though they have their own legitimacy through some diverse elective processes.

A COST Action on Local Public Sector Reforms in Europe gathered up during four years eminent scholars on this subject. Interviewed conducted for this focus present the points of view of some of them. This COST Action originated from the observation of a strong knowledge gap: Literature about local governments is greatly missing cross-country analyses and European-wide perspective. There was need to lead comparative researches (East/West, North/South etc.) so to uncover current European trends, to explain variations within and between countries and ultimately outline best practices with respect to the local contexts.

To sum up, local governments must reform themselves to adapt to new pressures while preserving their central democratic role.

Practical implications are of the highest importance. Indeed, local governments are the entities of the states which are, by definition, the closest to the citizens. Their policies have direct and daily impact on people’s life. This place, close to citizens, gives to local governments a central role in two respects: first they perform most part of service delivery and implement policies, and second in democratic life and participatory activities. These are two elements that must be safeguarded from, and even strengthened by, reforms. Related concepts of good governance such as transparency, integrity, efficiency and accountability must be considered in reforms as well.

To sum up, local governments must reform themselves to adapt to new pressures while preserving their central democratic role. The research community led by some colleagues from EGPA/IIAS networks is dedicated to evaluating and comprehend but also advice practitioners in these transformations. Join our discussion by offering your contributions and sharing all the initiatives undertaken by your local governments and administrations to deal with local public sector issues.

Focus realized by Théo Fievet – IIAS Intern,
and Dr Fabienne Maron – IIAS Scientific Administrator