Reinforcing the municipal level in Iceland: Ideas, policies and implementations

Grétar Þór Eyþórsson


This article deals with mapping ideas, policy programs and policy implementations that have aimed at reinforcing the municipal level in Iceland in the post-war period. This is also analysed according to the analytical framework presented by the Italian political scientist, Bruno Dente, in 1988. This framework is about how states try to adapt to societal development with reforms - in this case by reforming the municipal level and central-local relationship. The first ideas on reforming the municipal level can be traced back to 1943. New Local Government Act has been passed three times in the post war period: 1961, 1986 and 2011. An Act on municipal amalgamations was passed in 1970. In 1993 and 2005 government initiated reforms resulted in general referenda in municipalities allover the country. The responsibility for primary schools (1996) and for services to disabled people (2011) were transferred from the state to the municipalities. The main conclusion concerning Dentes analytical framework is that the Icelandic case seems to fit into it. Emphasis on municipal amalgamations and on decentralisation by transferring new responsibilities from the state level to the municipal level is strong. However, for the last ten years or so, the emphasis on internal reforming has increased. In the Local Government Act from 2011 the emphasis on citizen democracy is confirmed by a new chapter on the issue.


Reforming the local government system; municipal amalgamations; division of tasks and responisibility between state and local level; legitimacy.

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