Reserved but Principled – and Sometimes Functional: Explaining Decentralisation Preferences Among Regional Bureaucrats
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionScandinavian Journal of Public Administration. 2020, 24 (3), 73-101.
In recent decades, decentralisation measures have been implemented in most advanced democracies. While such reforms may be driven by subnational pressures and demands for empowerment, the central government usually has the deciding power to decentralise. Literature on regional preference has proliferated since the 1990s, though we know little of regional administrative preferences in relation to this process. As policy formulators and implementers, they are directly affected by dispersion of authority downwards, as it directly affects their organisational structures and portfolio of responsibilities. This article analyses decentralisation preferences among regional bureaucrats in Norway in the context of the 2015-2020 Regional Government Reform. Utilising an original survey and testing five explanations, the bureaucrats are generally reserved about taking on additional functions, with support for increasing their portfolio primarily explained by a principled motivation to increase regional autonomy, followed by feelings of regional attachment. Functional arguments also matter, though to a lesser extent. The bureaucrats’ principled, rather than functional, attitude towards regionalisation deviates from theoretical premises of decentralisation literature, while also challenging more underlying notions of bureaucratic thinking, inviting further research into how these dynamics manifest themselves among members of the civil service.