On august 22 the largest Swedish convention for local authorities took place in Malmö, with more than 3000 participants. One of the seminars focused on the situation for English and French local authorities and what the Swedish society could learn from them. The seminar was led by Lars M Andersson and the speakers were Sir Merrick Cockell, Chairman of the English Local Government Association and Council Leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and Yves Millardet, local authority expert in the French bank Natixis.
The discussion circled around the fact that English local authorities will have a 28 % cut in central governments grants, while the French government have decided to freeze the grant on the present level. Sir Merrick and Mr Millardet reflected on how the local authorities in their respective countries have reacted to this and how, for example, they will manage the demand of the increased numbers of elderly people. A situation that will bring about higher costs for healthcare and social services.
Other topics were outsourcing and cooperation. Sir Merrick was quoted in Financial Times in the beginning of August, saying ’The days of assuming that private companies offer the best way of delivering public services are over’ (link). He stated that it is easier to adapt to changing circumstances if services remained in-house. In France several cities are discussing to bring back services that have been produced by private companies to the local authorities again.
Finally, the question of financing local infrastructure investment were discussed. In France local authorities are responsible for more than 70 % of total public investments. In England the share is above 50 %. To facilitate the financing of these investment projects have started in both countries to create local government funding agencies. The French project is a little ahead of the English and the French local government associations have hopes that the agency will be up and running during next year.