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Administrative Reforms in the Intergovernmental Setting: Impacts on Multi-Level Governance from a Comparative Perspective

Multi-Level Governance: The Missing Linkages

ISBN: 978-1-78441-874-8, eISBN: 978-1-78441-873-1

Publication date: 6 July 2015



This chapter is aimed at contributing to the question of how institutional reforms affect multi-level governance (MLG) capacities and thus the performance of public task fulfillment with a particular focus on the local level of government in England, France, and Germany.


Drawing on concepts of institutional evaluation, we analytically distinguish six dimensions of impact assessment: vertical coordination; horizontal coordination; efficiency/savings; effectiveness/quality; political accountability/democratic control; equity of service standards. Methodologically, we rely on document analysis and expert judgments that could be gleaned from case studies in the three countries and a comprehensive evaluation of the available secondary data in the respective national and local contexts.


Institutional reforms in the intergovernmental setting have exerted a significant influence on task fulfillment and the performance of service delivery. Irrespective of whether MLG practice corresponds to type I or type II, task devolution (decentralization/de-concentration) furthers the interlocal variation and makes the equity of service delivery shrink. There is a general tendency of improved horizontal/MLG type I coordination capacities, especially after political decentralization, less in the case of administrative decentralization. However, decentralization often entails considerable additional costs which sometimes overload local governments.

Research implications

The distinction between multi-purpose territorial organization/MLG I and single-purpose functional organization/MLG II provides a suitable analytical frame for institutional evaluation and impact assessment of reforms in the intergovernmental setting. Furthermore, comparative research into the relationship between MLG and institutional reforms is needed to reveal the explanatory power of intervening factors, such as the local budgetary and staff situation, local policy preferences, and political interests in conjunction with the salience of the transferred tasks.

Practical implications

The findings provide evidence on the causal relationship between specific types of (vertical) institutional reforms, performance, and task-related characteristics. Policy-makers and government actors may use this information when drafting institutional reform programs and determining the allocation of public tasks in the intergovernmental setting.

Social implications

In general, the euphoric expectations placed upon decentralization strategies in modern societies cannot straightforwardly be justified. Our findings show that any type of task transfer to lower levels of government exacerbates existing disparities or creates new ones. However, the integration of tasks within multi-functional, politically accountable local governments may help to improve MLG type I coordination in favor of local communities and territorially based societal actors, while the opposite may be said with regard to de-concentration and the strengthening of MLG type II coordination.


The chapter addresses a missing linkage in the existing MLG literature which has hitherto predominantly been focused on the political decision-making and on the implementation of reforms in the intergovernmental settings of European countries, whereas the impact of such reforms and of their consequences for MLG has remained largely ignored.



Kuhlmann, S. (2015), "Administrative Reforms in the Intergovernmental Setting: Impacts on Multi-Level Governance from a Comparative Perspective", Multi-Level Governance: The Missing Linkages (Critical Perspectives on International Public Sector Management, Vol. 4), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 183-215.



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