Introduction: Comparing Local Public Sector Reforms: Institutional Policies in Context

“…other-than-NPM measures” such as territorial reforms, functional re-allocations in the multi-level system, and democratic innovations have played an important role in many European local government systems. These diverse reform activities have contributed to transforming local government systems and patterns of local governance in Europe.”

Local governments all over Europe are in a period of increased reform activity and intensity, especially since this level of government has been the most seriously affected by the continuously expanding global financial crisis and the austerity policies in some countries. The reforms involve a variety of trajectories ranging from New Public Management (NPM) modernization to reorganization of service delivery between the local public, private and non-profit sectors, functional re-scaling, territorial consolidation, and inter-local cooperation.

Many local governments have significantly shifted away from NPM-type reforms and moved to “something different” in order to correct the shortcomings of earlier NPM measures, which some commentators have labeled “post-NPM” (see Halligan 2010). The significance of NPM/post-NPM notwithstanding, European local governments have never concentrated solely on reforms of these kinds but have pursued a variety of (partly conflicting) reform trajectories. NPM reforms have undoubtedly prompted far-reaching institutional changes in some countries, yet in other countries they have been criticized or even ignored.

G. Bouckaert | 2016,,