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Measuring Local Autonomy

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Abstract

This chapter develops a comprehensive and empirically applicable concept to measure the autonomy of local government in the 39 European countries covered. To this end, we first discuss already existing measurements and typologies of local autonomy and decentralisation. We argue that existing data on fiscal decentralisation only tells part of the story and does not capture the role and discretion of local government in an adequate manner. Subsequently, we present our methodology to measure local autonomy, the coding scheme we developed to code the different countries as well as the different variables used. The chapter contains also information about the organisation of the whole project, the different experts involved and the method applied to gather comparative data.

Keywords

  • Coding scheme
  • Systems of local government
  • Municipalities
  • 11 variables
  • Decentralisation
  • Expert survey
  • Codebook

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Notes

  1. 1.

    For the nomenclature of territorial units for statistics by Eurostat, see: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/nuts/local-administrative-units (consulted in 2018).

  2. 2.

    Horizontal aspects of local autonomy are much more difficult to grasp in comparative studies since they imply non-governmental actors.

  3. 3.

    For a complete literature review of the studies comparing local government systems between countries, see Wolman (2008), Vetter (2007) or Kuhlmann and Wollmann (2014).

  4. 4.

    The same pitfalls shall be pointed out regarding the proportion of public employees employed by subnational units as a measure of (de)centralisation (Wolman 1990).

  5. 5.

    The most recent studies on fiscal decentralisation (see e.g. OECD and KIPF 2016) are focusing on subnational government; no distinction is made between regional and local governments.

  6. 6.

    While developing the codebook, we tried, at least to some extent, to follow the methodology of the Regional Authority Index (RAI) produced by Liesbet Hooghe, Gary Marks and Arjan H. Schakel (2010). Some adaptations, however, had to be made to capture the specific characteristics of local government.

  7. 7.

    The points to be given to policy scope and effective political discretion can add up to 12. They were then divided by three to remain in the range of the other variables .

  8. 8.

    List of the country experts by country: (1) Albania , Alba Dakoli Wilson; (2) Austria , Franz Fallend and Armin Mühlböck; (3) Belgium , Kristof Steyvers; (4) Bulgaria , Desislava Stoilova; (5) Croatia , Dubravka Jurlina Alibegovic; (6) Cyprus , Nikos Hlepas; (7) Czech Republic , Lucie Sedmihradska; (8) Denmark , Kurt Houlberg; (9) Estonia , Georg Sootla; (10) Finland , Pekka Kettunen; (11) France , William Gilles; (12) Georgia , Natia Daghelishvili; (13) Germany , Angelika Vetter; (14) Greece , Nikos Hlepas; (15) Hungary, Gábor Dobos; (16) Iceland , Eva Hlynsdottir; (17) Ireland , Gerard Turley; (18) Italy , Annick Magnier; (19) Latvia , Inga Vika; (20) Liechtenstein , Nicolas Keuffer; (21) Lithuania , Diana Saparniene; (22) Luxembourg, Raphaël Kies; (23) Macedonia , Gordana Siljanovska Davkova and Renata Treneska-Deskoska; (24) Malta , Ivan Mifsud; (25) Moldova , Alexandru Osadci; (26) Netherlands , Bas Denters; (27) Norway , Harald Baldersheim; (28) Poland , Pawel Swianiewicz; (29) Portugal , Pedro Costa Gonçalves; (30) Romania , Cristina Stanus; (31) Serbia , Dusan Vasiljevic; (32) Slovak Republic, Jan Bucek; (33) Slovenia , Irena Baclija; (34) Spain , Carmen Navarro; (35) Sweden , Anders Lidström; (36) Switzerland , Nicolas Keuffer and Andreas Ladner; (37) Turkey , Ali Cenap Yologlu; (38) Ukraine , Katerina Maynzyuk; (39) United Kingdom , Michael Goldsmith.

  9. 9.

    The country group coordinators were Harald Baldersheim (Nordic countries), Nikos Hlepas (Cyprus , Greece , Macedonia , Malta , Turkey ), Carmen Navarro (France , Italy , Spain , Portugal ), Kristof Steyvers (Belgium , Luxembourg , Netherlands ), Andreas Ladner and Nicolas Keuffer (Austria , Germany , Liechtenstein , Switzerland , Ireland , United Kingdom ) and Pawel Swianiewicz (Baltic, Central Eastern, Balkan, Eastern countries).

  10. 10.

    For the country profiles, see: http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/docgener/studies/pdf/lai_country_profiles.zip (consulted in 2018).

  11. 11.

    Prof. Sabine Kuhlmann, Chair of the COST action IS1207 “Local Public Sector Reforms: An International Comparison” and Prof. Anders Lidström, convenor at the ECPR Standing Group on Local Government and Politics and Editor of The Oxford Handbook of Local and Regional Democracy in Europe, among other things. They approved in most cases the coding of the experts. If there was any disagreement, we went back to the country experts.

  12. 12.

    All the data, the country profiles and the report submitted to the European Commission’s Directorate for Urban and Regional Affairs can be found on website of our project (http://local-autonomy.andreasladner.ch/).

  13. 13.

    The 22 variables for policy scope and effective political discretion stemming from the different policies were combined into two variables, only.

  14. 14.

    The data of the original project is available under: http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/docgener/studies/pdf/lai_datasets.xlsx (consulted in 2018).

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Appendix

Appendix

Table 2.2 Number of municipalities (1990–2014)
Table 2.3 Average population size (1990–2014)
Table 2.4 OECD indicators of local autonomy (1995 and 2014)
Table 2.5 OECD indicators of local autonomy: tax autonomy and non-earmarked transfers (1995 and most recent data)
Table 2.6 A summary of research on local autonomy in European countries
Table 2.7 Local autonomy coding scheme

1.1 Additional Coding Instructions

Policy Scope (0–4)

Range of functions (tasks) where local government is effectively involved in the delivery of the services (be it through their own financial resources and/or through their own staff).

You can use half points (0.5) if local government is only partly involved; this also applies for the different items in education, social assistance, health and land use planning.

Education (0–2) Refers to primary education + 1 point if the local government is fully responsible for the construction and/or the maintenance of school buildings
+ 1 point if the local government is fully responsible for teachers’ employment and payment
Social assistance (0–2) Refers to economic and other help to destitute people (“poverty relief”); social insurance (e.g. unemployment benefits) is excluded +1 point if the local government is fully responsible for providing poverty relief
+ 1 points if the local government is fully responsible for other social security/protection services
Health (0–2) Refers to primary health services + 1 point if the local government is fully responsible for the construction and/or the maintenance of clinics or health centres (not hospitals or specialised health services)
+ 1 point if the local government is fully responsible for doctors’ employment and payment
Land use (0–2) Refers to building permits and zoning + 1 point if the local government is fully responsible for administering building permits
+ 1 point if the local government is fully responsible for administering zoning
Public transport (0–1) Refers to public transport services (not roads, streets, street lights, etc.) 1 point if the local government is fully responsible for public transport services
(0.5 point if the local government is partly responsible for public transport services)
Housing (0–1) Refers to housing and town development 1 point if the local government is fully responsible for housing and town development
(0.5 point if the local government is partly responsible for housing and town development)
Police (0–1) Refers to traffic police and public order police 1 point if the local government is fully responsible for police
(0.5 point if the local government is partly responsible for police)
Caring functions (0–1) Refers to kindergartens, services for the elderly or handicapped people, etc. 1 point if the local government is fully responsible for delivering caring functions
(0.5 point if the local government is partly responsible for delivering caring functions)

Effective Political Discretion (0–4)

The extent to which local government has real influence (can decide on service aspects) over these functions.

You can use half points (0.5) if local government can only partly decide, this also applies for the different items in education, social assistance, health and land use planning.

Education (0–2) Refers to primary education + 1 point if the local government can decide on the number and location of schools
+ 1 point if the local government can decide on teachers’ employment and payment
Social assistance (0–2) Refers to economic and other help to destitute people (“poverty relief”); social insurance (e.g. unemployment benefits) is excluded + 1 point if the local government can decide on whether an individual receives financial relief or not
+ 1 point if the local government can decide on the level of assistance a person receives
Health (0–2) Refers to primary health services + 1 point if local government can decide on the construction and/or the maintenance of health centres (not hospitals or specialised health services)
+ 1 point if local government can decide on the organisation and functioning of specialised health centres
Land use (0–2) Refers to building permits and zoning + 1 point if the local government can decide on building permits
+ 1 point if the local government can decide on zoning
Public transport (0–1) Refers to public transport services (not roads, streets, street lights, etc.) 1 point if the local government can fully decide on range and level of public transport services offered
(0.5 point if the local government can partly decide on range and level of public transport services offered)
Housing (0–1) Refers to housing and town development 1 point if the local government can fully decide on housing and town development
(0.5 point if the local government can partly decide on housing and town development)
Police (0–1) Refers to police traffic and public order police 1 point if the local government can decide on public order police services
(0.5 point if the local government can decide on traffic police services)
Caring functions (0–1) Refers to kindergartens, services for the elderly or handicapped people and so on 0.5 point if the local government can fully decide on the level of caring functions offered
(0.5 point if the local government can partly decide on the level of caring functions offered)

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Ladner, A. et al. (2019). Measuring Local Autonomy. In: Patterns of Local Autonomy in Europe. Governance and Public Management. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-95642-8_2

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