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DEMOS-Demokratisk og effektiv styring, planlegging og forvaltning

De-collectivisation of Decision-Making and the Decline of a Local Mandate

Awarded: NOK 4.4 mill.

This Project adreses two hyptheses in the field of municipal leadership practices: First, the idea that leadership is becoming increasingly person-focussed and "de-collectivized". Second, that the room for manouvre is shrinking as a result of increasing central government regulations, leaving the municipalities to manage the mandatory tasks within tight budgets. To address these themes, three nation-wide surveys and a qualitative case approach have been utilized.The surveys have addressed Norwegian mayors, chief administrative officers, and all elected representatives in about 40 municipalities. The respondenets have all been asked to asses the degree of influence exerted by the Mayor and the CAO. The case studies focussed on municpalities with "long-lasting" Mayors. The results largerly invalidated the hypotheses of indvidualist leadership and a shrinking room for manouvre. On the contrary, the mayors, in cooperation with the CAO typically forms part of wider "Development Networks" working on strategic issues that supersceded the mandatory tasks, and in this (non- individualist)way in fact has widened the room for manouvre in the Norwegian municipalities.

Researchers agree that local government in most European countries is subject to considerable change; partly due to deliberate institutional reform, and partly resulting from processes in society at large. Driving forces are not merely national, and refor ms to some extent subject to fashion. Even so, political culture and contextual factors makes for path dependency and both inter- and intra-national variation. Central objectives throughout have been to sustain and improve local democracy and participatio n; improve political steering and accountability, and a more effective and efficient service provision. But in order to be prescriptive, a better understanding of the actual processes and their effects is necessary. Our project approaches these questions through a focus on the changing preconditions for leadership and leadership legitimacy in local government. To what extent does the governance-approach capture the actual situation, and constitute a frame of reference for leader behavior? In what way does institutional change affect role perception and behavior on the part of mayors and CAO's? We hypothesize a de-collectivisation of decision-making in local government, and a declining legitimacy for a local mandate. This may imply a weakening territorial foundation for local government leadership, and a shift in local government influence relations, leaving more scope for sectoral interests and functional concerns. The project builds on international comparative research as well as our own studies of cha nges in Norwegian local government; particularly the role of mayor and changes over time; and findings from the evaluation of the experiments with direct election of mayor and extended formal powers for some incumbents. Through a large national survey of CAO's and a number of case studies, special attention will be on the role perception and behavior of mayor and CAO, and their influence relations in processes of agenda-setting, policy formation and implementation.

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DEMOS-Demokratisk og effektiv styring, planlegging og forvaltning