In the Shadow of Austerity: Italian Local Public Services and the Politics of Budget Cuts

  • Giulio CitroniEmail author
  • Andrea Lippi
  • Stefania Profeti
Part of the Governance and Public Management book series (GPM)


Austerity entered the Italian political agenda with the economic downturn of 2010. Supranational pressures, coupled with domestic changes in the government coalition, paved the way to an intense programme of rationalization through “across-the-board” measures in several domains which fell under the responsibility of local governments (water service, waste, public transport and social welfare). This triggered a shift from a “doing more with less” to a “doing less with less” strategy, implicitly impacting on the autonomy of local governments.

The chapter aims at assessing whether, how and to what extent austerity implied a policy transfer or was a window of opportunity for domestic games. The contribution traces the process which links the austerity measures in the national agenda to their local impacts. Issue framing and the choices of policy instruments at the central level are analysed first. Secondly, the chapter focuses on the impact of strategy and measures that directly or indirectly affected the management and delivery of local public services. Finally, the contribution provides an overall discussion of the outputs and outcomes of such a new approach at the financial, social and political level.


Deinstitutionalization Recentralization Accountability Privatization Austerity Fiscal politics 


  1. Arena, G., & Iaione, C. (Eds.). (2012). L’Italia dei beni comuni. Milano: Carocci.Google Scholar
  2. Banca d’Italia. (2007, October 30). Local government Debt—Statistic Series, XVII(62), 2007.Google Scholar
  3. Bersani, M. (2011). Come abbiamo vinto il referendum: dalla battaglia per l’acqua pubblica alla democrazia dei beni comuni. Roma: Alegre.Google Scholar
  4. Bolgherini, S. (2014). Can Austerity Lead to Recentralisation? Italian Local Government During the Economic Crisis. South European Society and Politics, 19(2), 193–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bolgherini, S., & Lippi, A. (2016). Italy. Re-mapping Local Government from Re-allocation and Re-Shaping to Re-scaling. In U. Sadioglu & K. Dede (Eds.), Theoretical Foundations and Discussions on the Reformation Process in Local Governments (pp. 265–287). New York: IGI Global.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bolgherini, S., Lippi, A., & Maset, S. (2016). In mezzo al guado. La governance subregionale tra vecchie province e nuove aree vaste. Rivista Italiana di Politiche Pubbliche, 12(3), 341–372.Google Scholar
  7. Bosco, A., & McDonnell, D. (2012). Introduction: The Monti Government and the Downgrade of Italian Parties. In A. Bosco & D. McDonnell (Eds.), Italian Politics. From Berlusconi to Monti. New York: Berghahn.Google Scholar
  8. Bosi, L., & Zamponi, L. (2015). Direct Social Actions and Economic Crises: The Relationship Between Forms of Action and Socio-Economic Context in Italy. Partecipazione e conflitto, 8(2), 367–391.Google Scholar
  9. Bussu, S., & Galanti, T. (2015). Local Governments at the Time of the Crisis. In C. Hanretty & S. Profeti (Eds.), Italian Politics. The Year of the Bulldozer (pp. 141–159). New York: Berghahn.Google Scholar
  10. Citroni, G., & Di Giulio, M. (2016). Dismissioni! E poi? Che fare delle ex-municipalizzate. Milano: Guerini e Associati.Google Scholar
  11. Citroni, G., Lippi, A., & Profeti, S. (2015). Representation Through Corporatisation. Municipal Corporations in Italy as Arenas for Local Democracy. European Political Science Review, 7(1), 63–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Citroni, G., Lippi, A., & Profeti, S. (2016). Local Public Services in Italy: Still Fragmentation. In H. Wollmann, G. Marcou, & I. Kopric (Eds.), Public and Social Services in European Countries (pp. 103–118). London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  13. Citroni, G., Di Giulio, M., Galanti, M. T., Lippi, A., & Profeti, S. (2017). Apprentice Sorcerers. Evaluating the Program Theory of Regulatory Governance in Italian Public Utilities. In I. Kopric, G. Marcou, & H. Wollmann (Eds.), Evaluation of Reforms of Local Public Services in Europe (pp. 225–242). London: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  14. CREA Sanità. (2015). XI Rapporto sanità. L’universalismo diseguale. Rome: CREA Consorzio per la Ricerca Economica Applicata in Sanità.Google Scholar
  15. Culpepper, P. (2014). The Political Economy of Unmediated Democracy: Italian Austerity Under Mario Monti. West European Politics, 37(6), 1264–1281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Di Giulio, M., & Profeti, S. (2016). Eppur si muove? Il riordino territoriale oltre la crisi. Rivista Italiana di Politiche Pubbliche, 12(3), 311–340.Google Scholar
  17. Di Mascio, F., & Natalini, A. (2014). Reform Processes: Performance Management Within Italian Local Government. International Public Management Journal, 16(1), 141–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Di Mascio, F., & Natalini, A. (2015). Fiscal Retrenchment in Southern Europe: Changing Patterns of Public Management in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain. Public Management Review, 17(1), 129–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Di Mascio, F., Natalini, A., & Stolfi, F. (2013). The Gost of Crises Past: Analysing Reform Sequences to Understand Italy’s Response to Global Crisis. Public Administration, 91(1), 17–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Di Quirico, R. (2010). Italy and the Global Economic Crisis. Bulletin of Italian Politics, 2(2), 3–19.Google Scholar
  21. Dyson, K., & Featherstone, K. (Eds.). (1999). The Road to Maastricht. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Fusaro, C. (2013). The Formation of the Monti Government and the Role of the President of the Republic. In A. Bosco & D. McDonnell (Eds.), Italian Politics. From Berlusconi to Monti (pp. 78–97). New York: Berghahn.Google Scholar
  23. Galanti, T. (2016). Sindaci e manager nel capitalismo municipale. Saggio sui vestiti nuovi dell’imperatore. Bologna: il Mulino.Google Scholar
  24. Gennari, E., & Messina, G. (2012, January). How Sticky Are Local Expenditures in Italy? Assessing the Relevance of the “Flypaper Effect” Through Municipal Data. Banca d’Italia Working Paper No. 844.Google Scholar
  25. Giannetti, D. (2013). Mario Monti’s Technocratic Government. In A. Di Virgilio & C. Radaelli (Eds.), Italian Politics. Technocrats in Office (pp. 133–152). New York: Berghahn.Google Scholar
  26. Goretti, C., & Rizzuto, L. (2013). The Spending Review: Use and Abuse of a Term. In A. Di Virgilio & C. M. Radaelli (Eds.), Italian Politics: Technocrats in Office (pp. 188–206). New York: Berghahn.Google Scholar
  27. Gualmini, E., & Pasotti, E. (Eds.). (2011). Italian Politics. Much Ado About Nothing? New York: Berghahn.Google Scholar
  28. Guidi, M. (2015). The Democratic Party of Matteo Renzi. In C. Hanretty & S. Profeti (Eds.), Italian Politics. The Year of the Bulldozer (pp. 51–66). New York: Berghahn.Google Scholar
  29. Hanretty, C., & Profeti, S. (Eds.). (2015). Italian Politics. The Year of the Bulldozer. New York: Berghahn.Google Scholar
  30. Hopkin, J. (2012). A Slow Fuse: Italy and the EU Debt Crisis. The International Spectator, 47(4), 35–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jones, E. (2012). Italy’s Sovereign Debt Crisis. Survival: Global Politics and Strategy, 54(1), 83–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Léon, M., Pavolini, E., & Guillén, A. M. (2015). Welfare Rescaling in Italy and Spain: Political Strategies to Deal with Harsh Austerity. European Journal of Social Security, 17(2), 182–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lippi, A. (2011). Evaluating the ‘Quasi Federalist’ Programme of Decentralisation in Italy Since the 1990s: A Side Effect Approach. Local Government Studies, 37(5), 495–516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lippi, A., Giannelli, N., Profeti, S., & Citroni, G. (2008). Adapting Public-Private Governance to the Local Context. The Case of Water and Sanitation Services in Italy. Public Management Review, 10(5), 619–640.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Marangoni, F. (2012). Technocrats in Government: The Composition and Legislative Initiatives of the Monti Government Eight Months into Its Term of Office. Bulletin of Italian Politics, 4(1), 135–149.Google Scholar
  36. Marotta, M. (2015). L’associazionismo obbligatorio delle funzioni dei piccoli Comuni calabresi. Amministrare, 45(1), 151–162.Google Scholar
  37. Monteduro, M. T. (2016). Riforme istituzionali ed equilibri di bilancio: la finanza locale alla ricerca di un assetto stabile. In G. Arachi & M. Baldini (Eds.), La finanza pubblica italiana. Rapporto 2016 (pp. 155–182). Bologna: Il Mulino.Google Scholar
  38. Quaglia, L. (2005). Civil Servants, Economic Ideas, and Economic Policies: Lessons from Italy. Governance: An International Journal of Policy, Administration, and Institutions, 18(4), 545–566.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Radaelli, C., & Franchino, F. (2004). Analysing Political Change in Italy. Journal of European Public Policy, 11(6), 941–953.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Sacchi, S. (2015). Conditionality by Other Means: EU Involvement in Italy’s Structural Reforms in the Sovereign Debt Crisis. Comparative European Politics, 13(1), 77–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Savoldi, A., & Scarpa, C. (2016). Servizi pubblici: i consumatori al centro dell’attenzione. In G. Arachi & M. Baldini (Eds.), La finanza pubblica italiana. Rapporto 2016 (pp. 185–205). Bologna: Il Mulino.Google Scholar
  42. Stolfi, F. (2013). Back in Europe? Italy, the Troika, and the Chancelleries. In A. Di Virgilio & C. Radaelli (Eds.), Italian Politics. Technocrats in Office (pp. 173–187). New York: Berghahn.Google Scholar
  43. Ter-Minassian, T. (2007). Fiscal Rules for Subnational Governments: Can They Promote Fiscal Discipline? OECD Journal on Budgeting, 6(3), 1–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giulio Citroni
    • 1
    Email author
  • Andrea Lippi
    • 2
  • Stefania Profeti
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Political and Social SciencesUniversity of CalabriaCosenzaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Political and Social SciencesUniversity of FlorenceFirenzeItaly
  3. 3.Department of Political and Social SciencesUniversity of BolognaBolognaItaly

Personalised recommendations