Is a Centralisation of Local Governmental Structures an Appropriate Way to Ensure an Efficient Provision of Local Public Services? Findings from Case Studies in the State of Saxony-Anhalt
Choosing the appropriate organisational model for local government (i. e. centralised vs. federal model) forms an essential challenge for local communities. Against the background of Fiscal Federalism, a trade-off between the two models mentioned can be expected: Though the centralised model may bring up economies of scale and scope, the federal form of local government may have advantages, too, for instance regarding the extent of civil participation. The article has the intention to answer the question how the degree of centralisation/decentralisation of local governmental organisation affects the provision of services of public interest. The article is based on case studies conducted in ten municipalities located in the State of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. The government of Saxony-Anhalt intends to implement a reform project targeted at the modernisation of local governmental organisation. The basic reform idea is to transform the local governmental structures from a situation (at the beginning of 2008) where a co-existence of centralised and federally organised municipalities is given towards a future situation where the centralised model should be dominating. In line with the expectation derived from theory, the empirical findings do not draw a picture, which is unequivocally in favour either of the centralised or of the federal model. However, the reform of modernisation of local governmental organisation should remain on the agenda, especially due to a shrinking population in the rural parts of Saxony-Anhalt. This could support the state government’s plans of a more centralized organisation of local government. But this would mean to give up the advantages of the existing federal model of local government. Therefore, in addition to the centralised model favoured by the state government, politicians in Saxony-Anhalt should look for the possibility of an alternative “third” model, which tries to combine the advantages of economies of scale with a greater degree of civil participation.