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Making a success of local government reorganisation

Pushing the boundaries


Pushing the boundaries

This report has strong relevance for many of our public sector clients, but particularly the Department for Communities and Local Government and local authorities in ‘two-tier’ areas in England. It also has relevance for local authorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland who may face or be going through reorganisation.

The UK government is currently considering the case for reorganising local government in England as part of a White Paper which is expected to be published in Autumn 2006. The possible changes are the introduction of a new tier of government at a ‘city region’ level, and more unitary authorities in shire areas.

Local government in England, Scotland and Wales went through a major reorganisation during the 1990s. But evidence from the last wave of reorganisation suggests that it is a difficult process which in some cases did not lead to the intended outcomes.

The process of reorganisation can be split into three main phases:

  • The review process – how government determines the exact proposals for reform, with input from local authorities.
  • The preparation for the transfer of responsibilities from existing or outgoing authorities to new ones.
  • The creation of new transformed authorities.

We carried out research into reorganisations in the UK and also local government reorganisations that occurred in Canada (City of Toronto), New Zealand, Australia (State of Victoria), and Denmark. We interviewed many senior officials who have personal experience of reorganisation. What we found was that whether or not reform produces the intended benefits depends as much on how it is implemented as on the exact nature of the changes. The research identifies lessons for both central and local government:

  • Government needs a review process which is quick and independent.
  • A robust framework is needed for transfers to new authorities.
  • Local authorities need to be more proactive in using reorganisation as an opportunity to transform their working practices.

The report aims to contribute to the ongoing debate on reorganisation and presents messages for government and local authorities on how to meet some of its challenges.

Download the full report  Pushing the boundaries: Making a success of local government reorganisation (PDF, 950 KB)

Related information
News release:  Local government reorganisation: successful implementation will be as important as the reforms themselves

In the press
Municipal Journal -  'Smooth transition' vital to reorganisation, says report (PDF)
Public Finance -  Councils 'should learn from past shake-ups'


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