Intermunicipal collaboration – a smart alternative for small municipalities?

Ulf Wiberg, Ilmi Limani


A characteristic of the Nordic states is their ambition to provide their citizens with a variety of good quality welfare services. A significant part of the responsibility for arranging reliable local solutions is devoted to the municipal level irrespective of the size of the municipality. This means a great variation in local capacity to meet different types of requirements. Especially small municipalities, which also face depopulation and an ageing population, are increasingly challenged to find renewal strategies and action plans to secure both municipal service obligations at reasonable cost per capita and competent staff. Besides rearranged internal steering, organizational frameworks, and working instructions, new solutions may be launched based on resource mobilization and a striving for improved performance in a wider spatial context. This paper explores how three municipalities in the north of Sweden have developed a voluntary intermunicipal collaboration and how it relates to alternative collaborative options in the regional context. The strengths and weaknesses of the chosen approach and its outcome are discussed based on interviews with the local government commissioners and their executive civil servants in different positions. The strength of the achieved collaborative profile is that it meets needs for higher cost efficiency and competence among staff within some municipal sectors. Further is noted that the chosen collaborative profile is not challenging the democratic accountability in each municipality. However, a weakness is that the collaborative results achieved after ten years of collaborative intentions are of marginal importance for all involved municipalities. These experiences are reflected upon with advantages and disadvantages of a merge alternative in mind.

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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