Chapter 1: Size and local democracy
How large should local governments be? This question has exercised the minds of scholars and public sector reformers alike from antiquity to the present. In the years since the end of World War II, the question has once again been high on the agenda in many contemporary democracies, and many countries have implemented local government reforms resulting in more or less substantial changes in the population size of local government units. In some countries these changes have moved in the direction of reducing the size of local units while elsewhere the winds of change have been blowing from another quarter (see Baldersheim & Rose 2010b; Martins 1995; Rose 2005b). In the Netherlands, for example, as a result of a large number of successive small-scale regional amalgamation reforms, the number of municipalities has been gradually reduced over the last sixty years, from 1,015 in 1950 to 458 in 2006 (Boedeltje & Denters 2010). In combination with the growth of the Dutch population, these reforms have resulted in a marked increase in the size of the Dutch municipalities. Whereas the average population size of a Dutch municipality in 1950 was almost 9,900, in 2006 the average size was over 35,600 residents (Denters & Klok 2005). Norway has also undergone a transformation of the municipal landscape, although the changes were implemented over a shorter period of time and were less drastic than in the Dutch case.