Faculté des sciences économiques et sociales

Voluntary amalgamation of local governments: the Swiss debate in the European context

Dafflon, Bernard

(Working Papers SES ; 426)

The debate about the amalgamation of local government units stems from the fact that their political borders (the institutional territory) do no longer coincide with the functional territory required for an efficient provision of most local public services. And both do not correspond with the relational territory which arises out of the private and professional activities of LGUs' residents as... More

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    Summary
    The debate about the amalgamation of local government units stems from the fact that their political borders (the institutional territory) do no longer coincide with the functional territory required for an efficient provision of most local public services. And both do not correspond with the relational territory which arises out of the private and professional activities of LGUs' residents as they commute daily or periodically for work, shopping and leisure. The core question of this paper is how to reform the institutional and functional territories in such a way that public services are delivered efficiently, according to local preferences and in a way that responds to the needs expressed in the larger relational territory. The paper is divided in six sections. Section one summarizes the debate about LGUs' amalgamation in the Swiss context. Section two tackles the fundamental problem: if too many LGUs are too small, when is small too small and why? Horizontal cooperation is one possible solution, but it creates serious problems in terms of principal-agent, democracy, information asymmetry and moral hazard, explained in Section 3. Section 4 presents the core concept of “noyaux durs” which is one of the effective approaches to LGUs amalgamation. Section 5 details the cantonal financial incentives that are needed to encourage voluntary amalgamation, besides a cantonal planning strategy and technical help in the process of amalgamation. Section 6 concludes with some notes on the performance of the system.