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Back to Panel Details
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Transforming Democratic Accountability in Local Governance

Democracy
Governance
Local Government
P447
Bas Denters
Universiteit Twente
Andreas Ladner
Université de Lausanne

Saturday 16:00 - 17:40 (10/09/2016)

Building: Faculty of Social Sciences Floor: Ground Room: FS014

Abstract

These days ‘governance’ is generally accepted as an appropriate catchword to characterize patterns of collective decision-making and collective action in the local public domain (Denters 2011). In this setting local political decisions are increasingly relocated from traditional public-decision-making in “town-halls” to collaborative governance in “multi-agency networks that cross traditional jurisdictional boundaries (both vertical, across levels of government, and horizontal, between different local governments) and cut across the public–private divide” (Denters 2011). This relocation of local public decision-making manifests itself in a number of different ways: • Regionalization: where collective decisions are made at the subnational level and where the territorial scale encompasses two or more municipalities. • Privatization: where quasi-governmental agencies (operating at arms-length) and private companies are providing local public services and management of public facilities based on contractual arrangements and subsidization (e.g. Pollitt & Talbot 2004). • Community governance: where local government either works together with individuals, civic organisations and companies in co-productions and partnerships (Bovaird 2007; Ansell & Gash 2008) or facilitates forms of community or neighbourhood self-governance (e.g. Crenson 1983; Fung 2004). . Different as these manifestations may be, they all tend to hollow out the traditional model of local democracy centred on elected councillors. In the old-style notion of democratic accountability elected councillors provided a crucial link in the ‘electoral chain of command’ (Dearlove 1973:25-46). In this model the council -- with its directly elected members) is the major forum for democratic accountability (Bovens et al. 2008). Here – on behalf of the local electorate as the ultimate democratic principal – councillors “can pose questions and pass judgment” and can “impose consequences” to hold municipal executive politicians (mayors / aldermen) and administrative officers to account. These developments prompt the question as to whether the “relocation of local politics” does not leave a “local democratic deficit” that should be filled by a “relocation of democratic accountability”. Against this backdrop we ask two main questions: • What local democratic reforms were implemented – against the backdrop of changes in systems of local governance (the “relocation of politics”) -- in the last 25 years in local government systems in selected Western countries? • What are the strengths and weaknesses of these reforms in terms of increasing local democratic accountability? Here several issues are relevant. First, on might ask what democratic accountability mechanisms have emerged to replace of complement traditional mechanism. Second, there is the issue of dealing with the diffusion of responsibilities that is an inevitable consequence of poly-centric governance. This creates the so-called “problem of many hands” (Thompson 1980) that tends to erode traditional concepts of public sector accountability, based on hierarchical and collective responsibility. In this panel we aim at charting how this transformation has taken place in various European countries. We invite papers that provide an analysis of recent developments in local governance (in terms of the threefold shift in local governance) and what were the implications of these changes for systems of local democratic accountability. All these contributions should answer the two central questions stated before.

Title Details
Accountability in Practice: A Preliminary Analysis and Assessment in the Spanish Local Political System View Paper Details
Co-production, Co-operation or Con-fusion View Paper Details
Transforming democratic accountability in Norway: Tradition prevails View Paper Details
Local governance and accountability in Germany View Paper Details
On the Crossroads: The Developing Roles of Municipal Councils in Finland and Poland View Paper Details