Volume 42, No. 2 | Erosion of local democracy

David Dreyer Lassen and Søren Serritzlew | The Danish Structural Reform and Internal Political Efficacy

One of the classical questions in political science is how size is related to democracy. In this study we investigate the relationship between size of Danish municipalities and internal political efficacy. We expect that size is negatively related to efficacy, and that this effect is stronger for some groups of citizens. In a study of the effects of municipal amalgamations, we find that municipal size has a negative causal effect on internal political efficacy, especially for older citizens.

Kurt Houlberg and Poul Skov Dahl | Competitive Tendering in Danish Municipalities

Competitive tendering has top priority on the Local Government Agenda in Denmark and the national ambition is to increase competitive tendering. The Structural Reform and the accompanying amalgamations of municipalities in 2007 can be considered as being at a critical juncture, where the administration policy path of the amalgamated municipalities has to be redefined. Competitive tendering, however, is characterised by a high degree of path dependency and the Structural Reform has not had a particular tender-increasing effect in amalgamated municipalities. Measured by the official national indicator of competitive tendering, the degree of tendering is affected primarily by traditions and the number of administrative professionals employed by the municipality. Former research has shown that the level of expenditures and the expenditure policy are mainly determined by factors related to the economic and sociodemographic conditions of the municipality, while ideology plays a minor role, if any. When it comes to policy for delivering the services, the determinants are turned upside down. The degree of competitive tendering is affected by the party affiliation of the local council members – and not by the economic and sociodemographic conditions.

Morten Balle Hansen | Privatization, democracy and power in Danish municipalities

One of the key characteristics of „New Public Management (NPM) has since the1980ies been to promote various forms of privatization in the public sector. In Denmark, the development of standardized benchmarks measuring the degree of privatization and contracting out in local government provides an example. In recent years, the degree of privatization has increased in Danish municipalities. This article examines whether and how this trend towards an increased use of private providers in local problem-solving, has implications for the influence of local political actors and the practice of local democracy. The hypotheses being examined is that the introduction of privatization and quasi-markets with competition between public and private providers may have far reaching implications for the practice of local democracy as well as the distribution of local political influence. The article examines the hypotheses theoretically as well as empirically. The study indicates empirical support for theoretical arguments concerning two significant relations between privatization and political influence. First, increasing privatization tends to be associated with declining influence of the traditional actors of local representative democracy. Second, increasing privatization tends to be associated with increasing centralization of the remaining local political power.

Niels Ejersbo and Carsten Greve | Management by Contract in Danish Municipalities

Contracting out and internal contracts build in many ways on a common theoretical framework. However, when it comes to the distribution of contracting out and internal contracting among Danish municipalities there are large differences. Contracting out has been on top of the political agenda for a many years, but has only had a limited impact on service delivery in the municipalities. In contrast, internal contracting is a relatively new phenomenon in Danish municipalities and has in a few years become the perhaps dominant steering mechanism. The theoretical framework and the use of contracting out and internal contracting are discussed and it is shown how the Danish government directly and indirectly tries to regulate the use of the two management tools. In addition, the article looks at the consequences of contracting out and internal contracting for the local democracy.

Jens Fyhn Lykke Sørensen and Klaus Levinsen | Associational Engagement in Small and Large Communities

In the sociological literature and in the popular debate it has been a common assumption that people’s engagement in associational activities is most prevalent in small communities, e.g. villages and small towns. This paper presents an empirical test of this assumption, drawing on data from the Danish Values Studies of 1990, 1999 and 2008. Our analysis shows that there are only minor differences in association involvement among citizens living in small communities and citizens living in larger towns and cities. Our multivariate analysis, however, reveals a significantly higher propensity to perform unpaid associational work among citizens in small communities. Moreover, our analysis shows that association involvement has been increasing in both small and large urban communities. Hence, there is nothing to suggest that associational activity has decreased over the examined 18-year period.

Lasse Ring Christensen and Ole Helby Petersen | Regulation of Contracting Out and Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) in Danish Municipalities

The Danish tradition of a decentralized local government sector endows the municipalities with a fundamental freedom of choice in the delivery of public services, among them to include private sector partners. In recent years, however, this freedom of choice has been under growing pressure from the central government. An example is a new legislation which requires that municipalities undertake strategic considerations about private sector involvement in the delivery of services. Another is a binding agreement about increased competition for municipal services. The article focuses on two methods of organizing public-private collaboration: contracting out and public-private partnerships (PPPs). Which similarities and differences can be observed in the regulation of PPPs and contracting out in the Danish municipalities? How can the differences be explained? Comparative analysis demonstrates that whereas the regulation framework largely supports formation of contracting out deals, the rationale guiding the regulation of PPPs is more ambiguous. We point to the differences in  contract length and the fear of losing political flexibility in PPP as explanations for these differences.

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