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Organisational Choice

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This chapter looks at the organisational autonomy of local government seen as the possibilities municipalities have to choose their political institutions and to organise their local administration. In some countries municipalities can decide on elements of their electoral system or on the form and the size of their local executive, but in most of the countries these parameters are set by national legislation. As for the local administration, most countries have the freedom to hire their own staff, fix the salaries of their employees, choose their organisational structure and establish legal entities and municipal enterprises. There are, however, also countries where the local administration is more directly organised and administered by the central state. The development across time is not particularly spectacular. If there have been changes in the degree of organisational autonomy, most of them took place in the 1990s. There are, however, a considerable number of countries, in which reforms specifically aim at increasing organisational autonomy.


  • Organisational autonomy
  • Self-regulation
  • Political system
  • Local administration

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Fig. 6.1
Fig. 6.2


  1. 1.

    Message of the Swiss Federal Government on the signature of the European Charter of Local Self-Government :, p. 94 (consulted in 2018).

  2. 2.

    For the list of reservations and declarations, see:−/conventions/treaty/122/declarations?p_auth=RjzJKse3 (consulted in 2018).

  3. 3.

    For the text ratified by Switzerland, for example, see: (consulted in 2018); not bound are as well the Czech Republic , Georgia , Liechtenstein and Montenegro, for example, see the list of reservations and declarations (op. cit.).

  4. 4.

    See, for example, the Message of the Swiss Federal Government on the signature of the European Charter of Local Self-Government (op. cit.).

  5. 5.

    See the list of reservations and declarations (op. cit.).

  6. 6.

    Parliamentary system s existed in Albania , Belgium , Croatia , the Czech Republic , Denmark , Estonia , Finland , Iceland , Ireland , Latvia , Lithuania , Luxembourg , Malta , Poland , Spain , Sweden and France (Council of Europe 2002). Some of these countries (Albania , Croatia and Poland ), however, moved towards a presidential system with the introduction of directly elected mayors.

  7. 7.

    Hungary , Italy (since the 1993 reform ), Macedonia , Turkey , Ukraine , Portugal , Romania and Switzerland had local democracies of the presidential type. France and Spain can also be counted as countries with a presidential system , because they have no tradition of the assembly supervising the executive or because of the close electoral list in the case of Spain (Council of Europe 2002: 34).

  8. 8.

    Executive power in the hands of the mayor : Albania , Croatia , Cyprus , France , Hungary , Latvia , Lithuania , Macedonia , Romania , Spain , Turkey and Ireland , where it is rather a manager. Executive power in the hands of a collegial body: Austria , Belgium , the Czech Republic , Estonia , Finland , Iceland , Italy , Luxembourg , the Netherlands , Norway , Portugal , Sweden and Switzerland (Council of Europe 2002: 53).

  9. 9.

    Countries with a council-elected mayor are Czech Republic , Denmark , Ireland , United Kingdom , Estonia , France , Portugal , Malta , Iceland , Latvia , Lithuania , Spain (except very small municipalities) (Loughlin et al. 2010: 736; Council of Europe 2002: 55). In Finland , Norway and Sweden , the mayor is neither council-elected nor directly elected. Here, all decisions are formally taken in the board or council, although there are examples of a powerful municipal chairman (Loughlin et al. 2010: 736).

  10. 10.

    The countries concerned are Albania , Austria (6 Länder since 1994), Bulgaria , Croatia , Cyprus , Germany (in most Länder), Greece , Hungary , Italy (since 1993), Macedonia , Slovakia , Slovenia , Romania , Turkey , Ukraine and the United Kingdom (in 12 municipalities) (Loughlin et al. 2010: 736; Council of Europe 2002: 56; Nemec and de Vries 2015: 254). Also in Switzerland , the direct election of mayor and local executive is also common practice, and so is in Poland and Croatia.

  11. 11.

    This applies to the Netherlands , parts of Belgium (Nemec and de Vries 2015: 254) and Luxembourg.

  12. 12.

    Kuhlmann and Wollmann (2014: 26) refer to countries like the United Kingdom, Sweden and Denmark as monistic systems in which all decision-making power, including the “executive” direction and control of local administration are in the control of the elected local council.

  13. 13.

    France , the United Kingdom , Hungary , Luxembourg , Slovenia , Poland , Ukraine , Greece , Italy (Council of Europe 2002: 16) and Switzerland use majority systems or mixed systems, particularly in smaller municipalities.

  14. 14.

    Kuhlmann and Wollmann (2014: 26) distinguish between traditionally representative democracy-based institutions (United Kingdom , Sweden since 1974, Germany until 1990 and France ) and local government systems with strong direct democracy -based systems (Switzerland , Germany since 1990, Hungary , Italy , Sweden until 1974, Austria , Finland and Czech Republic ).

  15. 15.

    For the monitoring report of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities on Moldova of 2005, see (consulted in 2018).


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Table 6.2 Organisational autonomy (OA) by country (mean, reference years and changes)

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Ladner, A. et al. (2019). Organisational Choice. In: Patterns of Local Autonomy in Europe. Governance and Public Management. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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