Changing Decision-Making Power of Municipal Leaders
Comparative Experiences from Finnish, Spanish, & Slovak Municipalities
Acta Universitatis Tamperensis No. 1780


By Michaela Bátorová
December 2012
Tampere University Press
Distributed By Coronet Books
ISBN: 9789514489648
370 pages
$92.50 Paper Original

One of the main objectives of European policy-makers at the local level is to achieve an efficient and effective delivery of public services within the democratic system. In order to accomplish this, New Public Management (NPM) suggests executing a set of reforms focusing on three areas: implementation of generic managerial tools; empowerment of municipal managers responsible for appropriate usage of those tools; and involvement of other public or private actors in the implementation of service delivery. In addition, it requires that municipal leaders search for new co-operative practices, which are usually theoretically discussed within the concept of Governance. Application of all of these reforms leads to a new distribution of powers between politicians and civil servants, this means that leaders’ decision-making power is changing.

The intention of this doctoral dissertation, is to contribute to academic knowledge by investigating how municipal leaders – elected Mayors and Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) – in three different European countries perceive their decision-making power (DMP) and how they think this power has changed due to the impact of recent local government reform directions of NPM and Governance. Knowing how municipal leaders perceive these changes in their powers is a valuable source of information for policymakers and scholars who wish to evaluate the impact of current local government reforms on municipal performance. For fulfilling the purpose of this research project, at first, I defined DMP as an actor’s capacity to make decisions by influencing other actors involved in the collective decision-making process. This definition allowed me to create a Decision-Making Power Matrix, which develops four ideal types of DMPs: Absolut DMP, Facilitative DMP, Expert DMP, and Ceremonial DMP. This Matrix is based on a combination of formal and informal powers used by local leaders. In order to indicate, which type of DMP is used by studied leaders, firstly I conducted a historical institutional analysis of case countries for determining leaders’ formal powers. Secondly, I conducted a qualitative cross-cultural comparative research in studied countries for obtaining leaders perceptions about their own (changing) DMP and for determining leaders’ informal powers. A realistic approach to the interview data, and the application of the triangulation method, led me to make the following conclusions. The majority of Slovak and some Spanish Mayors perceived DMP from the positional point of view. The majority of Finnish and some Spanish Mayors perceived DMP from the personal ability point of view. The studied CEOs perceived DMP from both points of view without clear country specifications.

The NPM developmental trend had a positive impact on those Slovak Mayors, who act with Absolute DMP, and those Spanish Mayors who act with Ceremonial DMP. Those Spanish and Slovak CEOs who act with Facilitative and Expert DMP also perceived that their DMP was positively affected by NPM. Governance practices affected some Finnish CEOs, who act with Expert DMP. Other respondents claimed that NPM or Governance development trends did not have any impact on their changing DMP. All these perceptions are dependent on several factors, but the main factors were the institutional system, shared cultural values and interpersonal relations between political and administrative leaders.

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