Since 2011, Growth Analysis has published three reports dealing with multilevel governance within regional growth policy (Growth Analysis 2011, 2013a, 2013b). All three were written from a learning perspective, where the ambition was to provide bases, descriptions and proposals that can contribute to a more effective growth effort. The results indicate that there is a risk of growing fragmentation when it comes to implementing the regional growth policy.
Implementation of the regional growth policy can never be more effective than its weakest link. A large part of the regional growth policy is expected to have an impact on local level. In Growth Analysis’ opinion, greater focus needs be brought to bear on the interaction between local and regional level for implementation of the regional growth policy to be more effective.
There are clear challenges and weaknesses in the system that may lead to less cooperation and make implementation difficult. The interaction between the local and regional level needs to be developed more in several places around the country. The question is how implementation of the regional growth policy can be further strengthened in this respect. In order to answer this question, Growth Analysis has studied a number of examples both outside and inside Sweden to identify obstacles, but also to look at measures that have been tried to strengthen the local level and its interaction with other players. We have seen that our neighbours are aware of the problem and have taken initiatives at the central level. but we do not know whether the changes that have been made in these countries are good enough to strengthen interaction with the local level.
Much of the explanation for why there is a need to develop cooperative ability can be found in the current municipal structure. Demographic development, urbanisation and an altered trade and industry have brought about new prerequisites. The gap between the administrative division into municipalities and the functional labour market regions is growing, which means that many municipalities in Sweden are too small today to be considered functional units. To be able to plan and implement effective measures, the perspective needs to be based on functional regions, which demands effective cooperation between municipalities and between municipalities and regions.
Here we can see that our neighbours have acted in another way. It should, however, be pointed out that society in the different countries has developed out of different traditions and history. Regarding the municipal structure, the Nordic countries have different starting points, where Sweden has larger and fewer municipalities than for example Norway and Finland. Bearing this in mind, it may nonetheless be of interest to look at how our neighbours have handled their municipal structures.
Denmark carried out a reform of its municipalities and regions in 2007, through which the number of municipalities was reduced from 271 to 98 and 13 county councils were replaced by five regions. In Finland, the number of municipalities has been reduced by over a hundred over the past ten years and the country is now in the midst of implementing a municipal reform with the aim of making the municipal structure more functional. A reduction of the number of municipalities from today’s 320 to 70 is under discussion. Norway has recently begun preparatory work for a new municipal reform in order to create larger and “more robust” municipalities.
Cooperation within the framework of multilevel governance