Concept and Role of Local Self-Government in the Contemporary State

Concept and Role of Local Self-Government in the Contemporary State

Carlo Panara (Liverpool John Moores University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0317-0.ch003
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Abstract

In this study the key features of local self-government in the contemporary state will be analyzed and will be focused on European systems of local governance and particularly on Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Spain, The Netherlands and the UK. In this context the European Union will be referenced as an additional layer of governance above the state. In addition to a legal perspective, suggestions coming from other disciplines will be used such as, sociology, philosophy and especially political science. Main argument in this text is that a system of governance which includes strong local decentralisation is a good system of government fulfilling fundamental goals of constitutionalism.
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Introduction

In this study I will analyse the key features of local self-government in the contemporary European state. I will focus on European systems of local governance and particularly on Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Spain, The Netherlands and the UK (cf. Table 1). In this context I will also make reference to the European Union, which is an additional layer of governance above the state. I will adopt a primarily legal perspective, but will also use insights originating in other disciplines, such as sociology, philosophy, and especially political science. I will argue that a system of governance which includes strong local decentralisation is a good system of government fulfilling fundamental goals of constitutionalism.

Table 1.
The tiers of government139
CountryConstitutional SettingNational LevelRegional LevelLocal Level
AustriaFederal stateFederation (Bund)9 Provinces (Länder)2,357 Municipalities (Gemeinden):
• 15 cities with their own statutes (Statutarstädte, including Vienna)
• 200 towns (Stadtgemeinden)
• 762 markets (Marktgemeinden)
• 1,395 villages (Ortsgemeinden)
BelgiumFederal stateFederal State (Etat federal, federale staat)3 Regions (régions, Gewesten)
3 Communities (communautés, Gemeenschappen)
589 Municipalities (communes, gemeenten)
10 Provinces (provinces, provincies)
Czech RepublicDecentralised unitary stateState14 Regions, including the metropolis of Prague6,248 Municipalities (obce)
FranceUnitary, decentralised stateState26 Regions (régions)36,683 Communes (communes)
101 Departments (départements)
GermanyFederal stateFederation (Bund)Federal states (Länder)11,252 Municipalities (Gemeinden), including
110 Urban Districts (kreisfreie Gemeinden or Stadtkreise; including the city states Berlin, Hamburg, Bremen)
295 Rural Districts (Kreise or Landkreise, none in Berlin, Hamburg, Bremen)
GreeceUnitary, decentralized state with local self-governmentState13 Regions (periferies)325 Municipalities (dimoi)
Italy‘Polycentric’ state, that is, unitary, decentralised state with regional and local autonomyState20 Regions (regioni) and the 2 Autonomous Provinces of Trento and Bolzano (province autonome)C.ca 8,000 Municipalities (comuni)
107 Provinces (province)
(Metropolitan Cities have been introduced in 1990 but not established)
HungaryUnitary state with regional and local autonomyState19 Counties (megyék)3,175 Municipalities:
• 1 Capital city (főváros)
• 23 Capital Districts (kerületek)
• 23 Towns with county rights (megyei jogú városok)
• 304 Towns (városok)
• 2,824 Communes (községek)
The NetherlandsUnitary, decentralised stateState (Central Government, Rijk)12 Provinces (provincies)415 Municipalities (gemeenten)
PolandUnitary, decentralised stateState16 Provinces (voivodships)2,500 Communes (gmina):
• 300 town-communes
• Over 500 town-rural communes
• 1,600 rural communes
• 314 Districts (powiat)
• 66 Cities with at least 100,000 inhabitants (with district status)
SpainAutonomic stateState (Estado)17 Self-governing Communities (Comunidades Autónomas)8,115 Municipalities (municipios)
50 Provinces (provincias)
SwedenUnitary state with some regional and local autonomyState18 County Councils (landsting) and 2 Regions (regioner) resulting from the merger of two County Councils290 Municipalities (kommuner)
UKUnitary state with devolution of power to certain regions. Local government with general power of competence (subject to limitations).State (Central government)Regional governments in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.353 principal local authorities (England)
32 local authorities (Scotland)
22 principal local authorities (Wales)
26 districts (Northern Ireland)

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