Did amalgamation make local government more fit for the future?

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Journal of Public Administration, 2022, 81, (2), pp. 383-398
Issue Date:
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Local government amalgamations, mostly aimed at improving financial sustainability, remain a strongly contested public policy option. Proponents of amalgamation tend to emphasise the advantages of scale and plan around population size targets. By contrast, some scholars note the importance of understanding the needs and tastes of residents for local public services and stress the dangers of amalgamation dominated by population size considerations alone. In this paper, we conduct a robust empirical investigation of a recent amalgamation program dominated by population size considerations. Our results suggest that local government boundaries constructed principally to secure scale benefits have largely failed to deliver on the pecuniary promise of its public policy proponents. We conclude by offering some central public policy recommendations aimed at ensuring that future amalgamation programs might be more successful.
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