The theoretical and practical dilemma of creating a new organisational design for a municipality using sub-municipal units

Eva Marín Hlynsdóttir


Organisational design is an important factor in determining the survival of organisations. The organisation and design of municipalities and local government is no exception to that rule. Concluding an amalgamation process indicates that a new organisational design must be introduced. The rule of thumb is that such proposals do not deviate much from the organisational tradition of local government in country or region in question. However, there are exceptions to that rule. Following an amalgamation of four Icelandic municipalities in 2020 a new organisational design was introduced. Consequently, a municipality with submunicipal units was established for the first time in Iceland. Submunicipal councils with a mixture of directly and indirectly elected members were created in each of the previous four separate municipalities, creating a second administrative tier within the municipality. The aim of the new design was to address problems inherent in amalgamation processes such as alienation of smaller communities within the new municipality often resulting in feelings of low levels of democratic legitimacy in many newly established municipalities. Another aim was to ensure that the municipal administration and services were organised aligned with local needs. The study aims to shed light on both the theoretical and practical dilemma of creating a new organisational design for a new municipality by using an interdisciplinary approach combining organisational theory with theory and studies on local government. Therefore, the study explores how successful this new municipal design is through the development of the municipal organisational chart, and survey results.


Local government; organisational design; democratic legitimacy.


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