Local Structure and Municipal Associations in Spain: Facts, Trends and Problems

Local Structure and Municipal Associations in Spain: Facts, Trends and Problems

José M. Ruano (Complutense University of Madrid, Spain) and José Manuel Rodríguez Álvarez (World Bank, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0320-0.ch004
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Abstract

The main feature of the Spanish local structure is its fragmentation. Although self-government principle is widely recognized in legal and constitutional terms, this fact makes local governments in practice to be subordinate to both central and regional governments and therefore lack adequate power, personnel and material resources to deal with both the compulsory responsibilities assigned to them and those voluntary services they decide to provide in their communities' interest. Since fragmentation is an obstacle to provide services efficiently, most local governments co-operate between them to create inter-municipal associations as an alternative to amalgamations that work in practice in an anarchical way whilst neither regions nor provinces are interested in strengthening municipalities fearing the emergence of a powerful institutional and political counterweight.
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The Spanish Territorial Structure

Municipal and, in general, local government in Spain is extremely fragmented, although the intensity of this fragmentation varies according to the different Regions. Table 1 contains information about the local entities that exist in Spain in January 2016, according to the Local Entity Register drawn up by the Ministry of Finance and Public Administrations.

Table 1.
Local governments in 2016
Autonomous CommunitiesMunicipalitiesProvincesIslandsInfra-Municipal EntitiesMancomunidadesComarcasMetropolitan
Areas
OtherTotal
Andalusia775845841913
Aragon73134342321852
Asturias7839192138
Balearic Islands6741779
Basque Country25133413771640
Canary Islands8827154116
Cantabria10252422648
Castileand Leon2,24892,2242461184,746
Castile-La Mancha91954213221,099
Catalonia947465794111,100
Extremadura388221624477
Galicia3144938365
La Rioja174428206
Madrid179254235
Murcia45853
Navarre272347612682
Valencia54237632617
Ceutaand Melilla22
TOTAL8,12243113,7149978133513,006

Source: Ministry of Finance and Public Administrations, 2016.

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