Functional Responsibilities

  • Andreas Ladner
  • Nicolas Keuffer
  • Harald Baldersheim
  • Nikos Hlepas
  • Pawel Swianiewicz
  • Kristof Steyvers
  • Carmen Navarro
Part of the Governance and Public Management book series (GPM)


The purpose of the chapter is to analyse variations in local policy autonomy across countries and over time. Policy autonomy refers to the tasks that local authorities perform and the discretion they enjoy in the performance of those tasks. Policy autonomy is at the heart of local democracy as it sets the range of policy choice open to the elected representatives serving on local councils and therefore also the potential range of political choices presented to local voters. Policy choices drive political competition and accountability. Policy autonomy has increased over the time period analysed here in most of the countries included in the study. In some countries, the increase is rather marginal; in other countries policy autonomy has grown substantially. Nevertheless, the most remarkable finding is the range over variation in policy autonomy still existing across European countries, with the Nordic countries leading in terms of policy autonomy while Black Sea countries lag behind. This contrast has persisted throughout the period. The chapter analyses, furthermore, policy autonomy in detail, policy by policy. European countries also vary as regards the range of functions allocated to local government as well as the amount of discretion granted in performing the respective functions. The functional variation across countries suggests that the development of local policy autonomy in European countries follows distinctly national trajectories.


Policy autonomy Functions Local democracy Policy typology Schools Teachers’ pay Health centres Police Public transport Caring functions Zoning Building permits Housing 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andreas Ladner
    • 1
  • Nicolas Keuffer
    • 1
  • Harald Baldersheim
    • 2
  • Nikos Hlepas
    • 3
  • Pawel Swianiewicz
    • 4
  • Kristof Steyvers
    • 5
  • Carmen Navarro
    • 6
  1. 1.IDHEAPUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  3. 3.National and Kapodistrian University of AthensAthensGreece
  4. 4.Department of Local Development and Policy, Faculty of Geography and Regional StudiesUniversity of WarsawWarszawaPoland
  5. 5.Department of Political ScienceGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  6. 6.Department of Political ScienceUniversidad Autónoma de MadridMadridSpain

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