Did the Big Stick Work? An Empirical Assessment of Scale Economies and the Queensland Forced Amalgamation Program

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Journal Article
Local Government Studies, 2016, 42 (1), pp. 1 - 14
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© 2014 Taylor & Francis. In 2007, the Queensland Government imposed forced amalgamation with the number of local authorities falling from 157 to just 73 councils. Amalgamation was based inter alia on the assumption that increased economies of scale would generate savings. This paper empirically examines pre- and post-amalgamation (2006/07 and 2009/10) for scale economies. For the 2006/07 data, evidence of economies of scale was found for councils with populations up to 98,000, and thereafter diseconomies of scale. Eight percent of councils in 2006/07 (ten councils) – representing 64% of the state’s population – exhibited diseconomies of scale. For the 2009/10 data, the average cost curve remained almost stationary at 99,000 residents per council, but almost 25% of all councils (thirteen councils) were now found to exhibit diseconomies of scale. The compulsory merger program thus increased the proportion of Queensland residents in councils operating with diseconomies of scale to 84%.
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