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Economic Efficiency Versus Local Democracy? An Evaluation of Structural Change and Local Democracy in Australian Local Government

Brian Dollery () and Bligh Grant ()

Journal of Interdisciplinary Economics, 2010, vol. 23, issue 1, 1-20

Abstract: The debate on local government reform in Australia has been characterised by a dichotomy between arguments for increasing economic efficiency, largely through compulsory consolidation, and concern for the erosion of local democracy through the formation of larger local government entities. After providing a synoptic account of the Australian debate on structural reform and economic efficiency in local government, this paper considers the impact on local democracy of policies aimed at enhancing local government efficiency through amalgamation through the prism of four different models of democracy for local government (’representative’, ‘participatory’, ‘user’ and ‘network’) developed by Haus and Sweeting (2006). It is argued that a more positive assessment of reform outcomes is possible provided we conceive of local democracy, and in particular local representation, in broad rather than narrow terms. However, any embrace of ‘network democracy’ or ‘network governance’ has to be tempered with caution.

Date: 2010
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