The Consolidation of Local Government Services: The Incidence and Practice of Service Delivery Consolidation in North Carolina

“This research does suggest strong support from county managers concerning the potential for service consolidation to enhance service delivery, efficiency and accountability. This research confirms that practitioners view the potential of service consolidation as an enhancement to local government organizations. Academic research is inconsistent regarding consolidation outcomes and the perceptions held by practitioners.

The problem for advocates of service delivery consolidation is the lack of systematic research on the topic. The issue is typically linked with similar topics such as collaboration, regionalism or comprehensive city-county merger. Also, greater systematic analysis of the pre-merger claims and post-merger results should be undertaken.”

Service consolidation is the merging of two or more departments of independent units of government. By definition, service merger results in the elimination of an existing department and the restructuring of a surviving or reconstituted organization with the same or similar function. Substantial organizational change occurs in both governments.

For purposes of this research, service merger is defined as follows: Service merger is a form of integrated interaction or activity between units of government. It involves at least two units of government sometimes having overlapping jurisdictional authority. The activity occurs when identical or similar departments are merged. Each government involved in the service consolidation retains their governing political organization and structure and remains a separate legal entity. The specific service that is merged ceases to be provided by at least one unit of government. Despite some common characteristics, service consolidation differs fundamentally from local government cooperation, collaboration, regionalism and comprehensive city-county merger.

Published in Public Administration Quarterly | C. R. Abernathy | 2012