A comparative view of local government reform

Published 22 December 2008

Professor Brian DolleryThe role of Australian local government is expanding because that of State governments is contracting, according to a new book co-edited by a University  of New England academic.

Professor Brian Dollery (pictured here), the Director of UNE’s Centre for Local Government, is a widely published authority on Australian local government finance and reform.

His new book, Local Government Reform: A Comparative Analysis of Advanced Anglo-American Countries (Edward Elgar, 2008), looks at local government change over the past 20 years in Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Ireland, the United States and Canada.

‘Issues in Australia, such as the constant withdrawing of services from regional areas by State governments – especially NSW – and the controversial theme of local government amalgamations, are explored and then compared to the other countries,’ Professor Dollery said.

‘A good deal of light can be shed on the principles of local government reform by looking at changes in countries with much in common,’ he explained. ‘The next step will be to broaden this comparative approach by including developed countries outside of the “Anglosphere” group.’

The book, which Professor Dollery co-edited with Professor Joseph Garcea from the University of Saskatchewan and Professor Edward Lesage from the University of Alberta  (both in Canada), also works through five ‘pillars’ of municipal reform: structural, functional, financial, jurisdictional and organisational/managerial.

‘Until now my books have explored two main themes,’ Professor Dollery said.  ‘On the one hand they have focused on Australian local government; on the other, I’ve tried to develop theoretical principles for the analysis of local government reform. This new book represents a new direction in the research program.’

This is the UNE academic’s seventh book on local government. His previous books include The Political Economy of Local Government (Edward Elgar, 2001) and Reform and Leadership in the Public Sector (Edward Elgar, 2007), both written in collaboration with Professor Joe Wallis from the American  University of Sharjah.

Other works include Reshaping Australian Local Government (UNSW Press, 2003), co-edited with the UNE’s Associate Professor Neil Marshall and Professor Andrew Worthington from Griffith University, which has recently been translated into Mandarin and published by Peking University Press.

‘Interest in this book arose in China mainly as a consequence of two papers I gave in Beijing in 2006 that focused on reform in Australian local government and lessons that could be learnt for municipal reform in China,’ Professor Dollery said.

Another of the leading international authorities who have collaborated with Professor Dollery is Fabio Fiorillo, Professor of Public Economics at the Università Politecnica delle Marche in Ancona,  Italy. Professor Fiorillo, who has published widely in the area of local public finance, fiscal federalism and taxation, has contributed three co-authored chapters to one of Professor Dollery’s latest books, The Theory and Practice of Local Government Reform, co-edited with Professor Lorenzo Robotti of the Università Politecnica delle Marche and published this month by Edward Elgar Publishers.

Professor Fiorillo visited UNE last month for discussions with Professor Dollery and the Deputy Director of the Centre for Local Government, Bligh Grant – discussions that were a part of ongoing collaboration between Professor Fiorillo’s research group in Italy and the UNE Centre.