The purpose is to build larger and stronger local governments that provide better services, adapt to the societal challenges our sector face, and enhance the local community and businesses development.
The municipal structural reform
The reform was agreed by Parliament in June 2014. All municipalities were invited to make a decision on merging or not, by 2017. Before the reform, Norway had 428 municipalities. By 1st January 2020 Norway will have 356 municipalities, when 119 municipalities merge to 47. Near 1/3 of the citizens will live in merged municipalities, and 9/15 of the largest municipalities will become new. The government extended the reform in revised budget for 2018, continuing economic incentives. The government set the following goals for the reform:
- Good, equal services for citizens
- Comprehensive and coordinated community development
- Sustainable and financially robust municipalities
- Strengthen local democracy
Regional structural reform
The Norwegian county structure has been persistent for 150 years, although tasks and structures have been discussed and changed. In April 2016, the Government presented a white paper on the regional reform, which was passed by parliament the same year. The regional reform aims to strengthen the counties role as community developers and facilitate better collaboration amongst municipalities. The reform decentralises some tasks and responsibilities from central government to new regions. Six counties made mutual decisions to merge. The parliament decided to merge 19 county councils to 11 regions.
In terms of new tasks from 2020, the administration for country road networks will be decentralised, and 1850 Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) will be transferred from the central government. Other tasks such as cultural heritage protection, integration, broadband development, fishing ports, innovation, business development, agriculture and forestry will also be decentralised.
The reforms and KS
KS’ national board decided the following policy goals for KS in the local and regional reforms:
“On behalf of municipalities and regions, KS emphasises that structural changes must be based on local processes. The aim for KS is a stronger regionally elected government, and to develop the regions according to their regional comparative strengths, needs and interests” (KS Landsstyre plan 2016-20). KS also established an internal reform team for coordination and communication.
A tripartite agreement was signed in 2016 by the central government, KS, and employee organisations. The aim of the agreement was to secure good merging processes by common initiatives for sharing knowledge and best practice.
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