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News:  Working Group on Local Government

Meeting of the Working Group on Local Government

WG Programme Coordinators:
Michiel S de Vries, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Ilona Pálné Kovács, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, University of Pécs, Hungary
Daniel Klimovsky, Comenius University, Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences, Slovakia (Session 3)

Place: 26th NISPAcee Annual Conference, Iasi, Romania
Date:  May 24-26, 2018

The focus of the WP was on local government reports and consequences, especially on the trend of centralisation, but also on the attempts to improve efficiency in local and regional decision-making.
Our working group meetings were held five times with 19 papers presented by scholars from several countries (Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Kazakhstan Russia, The Netherlands, Sweden, and Hungary).

One of the main topics was the tendency of recentralization in, amongst others, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Kazakhstan and VISEGRAD countries. Another major topic discussed was that of local leadership and especially the role of mayors in municipalities. A third topic discussed was local policy making with regard to homelessness, local finances, and local marketing etc. The last and major topic discussed concerned the impact of size on local capacity.
The approaches were really broad, from local democracy and participation, finance and smart cities, to marketing and local and regional economic development. Most of the papers were based on primary data from empirical researches, providing insight into new methodological tools and new theoretical considerations. It is worthy of note that many papers were products of international co-operation and comparison.  
The papers and the discussions were, of course, very diverse but some messages were agreed by the participants. We need a much deeper knowledge and evidence of the real consequences of territorial and public policy reforms because international measures alone are not sufficient to understand what is going on in the special national and local context. It was also realised that perhaps we have to revise our ideas about the role of the size and scale, and more focus is required on capacity and leadership. Several papers provided research findings about the crucial role of mayors, and of the relationships between administration and politics, of local knowledge and legitimacy.    
We were pleased with and grateful to the organisers and presenters for the opportunity to learn and exchange ideas about some very timely and complex questions of local governance.

WP Plan for the 2019 annual conference
During the final session we asked participants which topics should be raised for the next conference.
These included:
•    Local democracy, the role of the councils and new forms of participation.
•    New, horizontal linkages between local governments and state agencies in public service delivery.
•    Size, scales, capacities, cooperation of municipalities.
•    New challenges in public policy at local and regional levels.
This resulted in the idea to make the context in which local governments have to operate with stakeholders inside the municipality, and intergovernmental relations between the local, regional, national and European levels, to be the central focus of this working group next year.

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