Formal institutions versus informal decision-making. On parties, delegation and accountability in local government

Colin Copus, Gissur Ó Erlingsson


It has been argued that formal institutions are weak in local government. It therefore follows that ideal-typical models of formal institutions that are supposed to regulate behavior in local government are poor at capturing what goes on in local politics. By comparing two different institutional settings – Sweden and England – we demonstrate the importance played by political parties in dominating the informal processes that influence de facto decision-making and actual political outcomes in local government. The high degree of informality found in such relatively different systems such as Sweden and England have troublesome implications for democratic accountability. This makes it pressing to explore to what extent citizens’ and party members’ control over local politics is meaningful even at the local level, where parties operate in close proximity to citizens and where public engagement and participation may be expected to perform at its best.

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Scandinavian Journal of Public Administration

School of Public Administration, Box 712 - SE-405 30 Göteborg

ISSN: 2001-7405, E-ISSN: 2001-7413