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Local Government Research Series

In the local government research series, we provide evidence - informed research and commentary on key issues related to the management and administration of local government.

Report No 11: Local and Regional Bodies in Ireland 2012-2016

Irish government has undergone substantial reform in the last number of years at local, regional and national level. This report focuses on local and regional governance, identifying the main changes to local and regional non-commercial public bodies that have occurred between 2012 and 2016, building on previous reports published by the Institute of Public Administration in 2007 and 20131. 

Download this report Local and Regional Bodies in Ireland 2012-2016


Report No 10: Re-Shaping Local Government
Overview of selected international experience with local government reorganisation, mergers, amalgamation and coordination  

Drawing lessons from international experience with regard to local government is fraught with difficulties. Different administrations devolve different functions to local government, and systems and practices of government differ.

A distinguishing characteristic of local government in Ireland is the relatively limited range of functions undertaken by local authorities. Many local authorities in other OECD countries have responsibility for a much broader range of social services, including primary and secondary education, health, social welfare, care for the elderly and childcare services, public transport, and policing.

The Irish local government reform programme based on Putting People First (Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, 2012), the action programme for local government reform, envisages new roles for local government with the alignment of community and enterprise functions with the local government system; greater impact and involvement in local economic and community development; and for local government to be the main vehicle of governance and public service at local level.

Download report: Re-Shaping Local Government

Report No 9: A Case-Study of the Tipperary County Council Merger

Tipperary County Council was established in June 2014 as a result of the merger of the former North and South Tipperary County Councils. The merger happened within the context of an extensive programme of public service cost reduction and also the Putting People First local government reforms. Combined with the latter, the merger represents a major reform of local government arrangements in Tipperary.

This report recognises that it is too early to reach definitive conclusions with respect to the longer-term impact of the merger. Within this context the objectives of the report are threefold:

1. To document the merger process

2. To review outcomes to date

3. To inform Tipperary County Council with regard to issues that require attention to ensure long term consolidation within the new authority.

It is further anticipated that in meeting these objectives the report will provide learning to other public service organisations engaged in reorganisation.

The Tipperary County Council merger has involved an extended and highly intensive work effort by all involved. Senior management on many occasions during the course of the research for this case-study acknowledged the support and work-effort of staff in delivering the merger on time and ensuring service delivery was maintained.

It is inevitable given the scale of the process and the number of people involved that there are challenges, unforeseen issues and for staff concerns in areas including communications, workforce planning and career prospects. One of the main motivations behind this research was to consult with staff, explore with them issues of concern and report back to management in respect of these issues.

Notwithstanding the considerable work to date, in many respects the merger has only just begun. Ongoing consolidation and an ultimately successful outcome whereby Tipperary County Council becomes more than the sum of its parts, is dependent on improved service delivery and the realisation of benefits from the merger - for staff, the council and the county.

Download Report: A Case-Study of the Tipperary County Council Merger

Report No 8: Service Level Agreement

In the current climate of tighter budgets and pressure on resources, many public sector organizations, including local authorities, are outsourcing services to external organizations under ‘service level contracts.’ Local authorities are providing services to others through service level agreements, as in the case of Irish Water. Service level agreements are also being used internally within organisations, guiding interaction between different sections of the organisation such as between central support services and delivery units.

Therefore, local authorities are both commissioners and suppliers when it comes to service level agreements. In this report we examine the nature of service level agreements, including the advantages and disadvantages involved in their implementation. A number of examples are highlighted, including references to good practice templates.

The report is primarily targeted at those local authority staff who are not particularly familiar with or aware of service level agreements. It is intended as a short, general introduction to the subject.

Download Report: Service Level Agreements

Public Sector Reform in Ireland: Views and Experiences from Local Government Senior Executives

While Ireland is not one of the ten countries formally participating in the COCOPS project, discussion with the project team led to participation in the survey of senior public executives. Ireland was the only country to undertake a survey of local government senior executives alongside the survey of central government executives. This report focuses on the responses of the local government executives. The report on central government executives attitudes can be downloaded from

Although other countries do not cover local government, this paper follows the format and style of the other country reports produced for the COCOPS project (, and the report for central government produced for Ireland in order to ensure a consistency of approach.

Download Report: Public Sector Reform in Ireland: Views and Experiences from Local Government Senior Executives

Report No. 6: Transforming Local Government

This report focuses on innovation in local government. Good practice examples of innovative practices, both from Ireland and abroad, are examined and lessons learned as to how to encourage an innovation culture within local government.

Download Report: Transforming Local Government

Report No. 5: Capability and Competency Requirements in Local Government

This report examines the current situation and expected future requirements of local government with regard to the skills and capacity needed in the sector. The changing role and functions of local government, combined with the changing people profile of the local government sector, provides the context within which capacity and competency requirements are framed.

Dowload Report: Capability & Competency Requirements in Local Government


Report No. 4: The changing structure of Irish sub-national governance

Irish government at all levels is currently undergoing arguably its most intensive period of reorganisation and realignment since independence. The future shape and role of local government has been the focus of recent media consideration, but less emphasis has been given to the current and proposed developments affecting nonelected local and regional public bodies. In this paper, building on a survey of local and regional bodies in Ireland published by the Institute of Public Administration in 2007, the current landscape of Irish sub-national governance is considered, and a number of issues pertinent to the reform agenda are raised.

Download the Report: The changing structure of Irish sub-national governance

Report No. 3: Using fees and charges – cost recovery in local government

This report identifies three key issues to be addressed concerning cost recovery: (a) setting cost recovery policy and principles; (b) capturing, monitoring and reviewing the cost of services; and (c) fee and charge collection and enforcement. Questions that local authorities should consider under each heading when developing their cost recovery options are outlined, together with recommendations as to how these questions should be addressed.

Download the report: Using fees and charges – cost recovery in local government

Report No. 2: Strategic Collaboration in Local Government

For the purpose of this paper, the focus is on strategic collaboration, which Norris-Tirrell and C lay (2010:2) define as ‘an intentional, collective pproach to address public problems or issues through building shared knowledge, designing innovative solutions, and forging consequential change. When used strategically, collaboration produces positive impacts, stakeholders committed to policy or program change, and strengthened capacity of individuals and organizations to effectively work together.’ While it is noted that resource sharing is not a new concept as local government organisations have been working together and sharing resources for many years, at a time of fiscal challenge such as the present it is useful to think more strategically about collaboration.

Download the report: Strategic Collaboration in Local Government

Report No. 1: Review of International Local Government Efficiency Reforms

This paper presents a brief overview of reforms undertaken in several jurisdictions designed to improve the efficiency of local government services. In any comparative review, one must consider the distinctive nature of each country’s institutional environment. Local government in different countries have different structures, population sizes, decision-making structures, provide a different range of services, and operate under distinctive financing systems. Nevertheless, parallels and comparisons can be drawn, and appropriate lessons can be learned from the experience abroad.

Download the report: Review of Local Government Efficiency Reforms

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