Norway has far too many municipalities with their own local governments, claim some politicians, many of which have fewer than 5,000 residents. Calls are rising for the municipalities to merge, to streamline bureaucracy and gain economy of scale.
“A municipality with just 5,000 residents is too small,” Anders Anundsen, a Member of Parliament for the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartet, Frp) told newspaper Dagsavisen last week. Anundsen and several other colleagues on the non-socialist side of Norwegian politics are advocating elimination of full 238 municipalities (called kommuner in Norwegian), in some cases over the objections of their own mayors.
From Hvaler in the far south of Norway to Vardø in the far north, the Progress Party itself risks stripping some of its own party faithful of their jobs as mayors. Anundsen believes it’s necessary, to cut costs, share strengths and rationalize services. Others object, saying it will threaten home rule and, in some remote areas, threaten badly needed jobs. In some areas, the public sector is the main employer because of limited business opportunity and economic development.
Anundsen and political allies within the Conservative Party want the municipalities to find their own partners, to avoid them being forced into mergers with neighbouring local governments. If not enough merge voluntarily, though, state officials may find partners for them.