Local government reform to secure future welfare

Published under: Solberg's Government

Publisher Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation

The Local Government White Paper contains the Government’s comprehensive plan for local government reform during this Storting session. The reform will result in larger municipalities that can take on additional responsibilities and more autonomy.

The Local Government White Paper contains the Government’s comprehensive plan for local government reform during this Storting session. The reform will result in larger municipalities that can take on additional responsibilities and more autonomy.

“The local government reform is a welfare reform. The objective of the reform is to secure good welfare services for us all: Good schools, nursing and care when we get older, safe day-care institutions for our children. It’s about what is needed to care for the citizens who need it most: Children who need child welfare services, drug addicts, people with mental health issues, and those who are left behind,” says Minister of Local Government and Modernisation Jan Tore Sanner, who today presented the local government plan for 2015, where local government reform is one of the key points.

Good, equal services for citizens, comprehensive and coordinated societal development, sustainable and financially robust municipalities and strengthened local democracy are the objectives of the reform.

“The Government wants strong, robust municipalities that can be assigned additional tasks and responsibilities. Most services are best provided as close to the citizens as possible, in the local communities,” says Minister Sanner.

There will be two different processes during the reform period. Municipalities that decide to merge no later than the autumn of 2015 will be followed up with Royal decrees. As regards the remaining municipalities, the plan is for them to adopt decisions by the summer of 2016. The Government is planning to present a comprehensive bill to the Storting regarding the new local government structure in the spring of 2017.

“It has been 50 years since the last local government reform and the municipalities have since been assigned considerable responsibility for welfare services. At the same time, central government micromanagement has increased, and the municipalities have recently moved a number of tasks out of the municipality and into intermunicipal collaboration. The politicians’ desire to give the municipalities considerable responsibility may have outweighed their ability to equip the municipalities for these tasks. We want to better equip the municipalities to handle the tasks they already have, as well as prepare them for challenges and new tasks that will come over the next decades,” says Sanner.

The Ministry will cover necessary non-recurring costs of mergers according to a standardised model. Funding will be given according to the number of municipalities and number of citizens involved in the merger. Merged municipalities may also be awarded reform funds.

The current scheme of amalgamation grants will be continued. With the current amalgamation grant, the new merged municipality will retain grants as though it was still two (or more) municipalities for 15 years after the merger, until the amalgamation grant is gradually reduced over five years. This is a favourable and long-term scheme for the municipalities, which will have ample time to adapt to new framework conditions.

The work on the draft bill in 2017 will take a point of departure in preventing individual municipalities from stopping changes that are desired and appropriate based on regional and national considerations.

The County Governors will be responsible for initiating regional processes in the autumn of 2014. The Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS) will be invited to cooperate with the County Governors in these processes at a regional level. The Government is also planning to present a white paper to the Storting in the spring of 2015 with proposals for new tasks for robust municipalities. Then the municipalities will know which tasks they could be assigned before they make decisions on mergers.

Schedule for the local government reform:

  • Spring 2014: Storting consideration of goals for the reform and plan for further work.
  • Autumn 2014, 2015 and spring 2016: Regional processes with KS, County Governors and municipalities. Summarised by the County Governors in the autumn of 2016.
  • Spring 2015: The Government presents its proposals for new tasks for the municipalities. Storting consideration of this white paper.
  • Autumn 2015 and spring 2016: Municipal merger decisions.
  • Spring 2016: Adoptions in Royal decrees on municipal mergers for municipalities that have made early decisions locally.
  • Spring 2017: The Government will present draft bills on the new local government structure and new tasks for the municipalities. Storting consideration of these draft bills.