Merging, disaggregating and clustering local authorities: do structural reforms affect perceptions about local governance and democracy?

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There is increasing pressure on local authorities to restructure themselves to meet current expectations from the public. Multilevel governance has emerged as one method for such restructuring. Using the results of a survey conducted among 1733 residents of local authorities in Israel, we explore the effects of three specific multilevel governance reforms–the merging, disaggregation and clustering of local government authorities–on residents’ assessments about local governance and democracy. Our findings underscore the importance of public support for the structural reform. Those who become involved in soft reforms involving bottom-up groups and voluntary coalitions that cluster together are more likely to trust their local authority, feel it responds to their needs satisfactorily and listens to them. However, the more support they express, the more their perceptions are attenuated. In contrast, residents of local authorities that amalgamated with other communities that then went through hard reforms, such as merging and disaggregation involving up-scaling and top-down reforms, had fewer positive opinions about these issues. Only residents who strongly favoured the merger had positive perceptions about local governability and participation in decision-making and were satisfied with local services and trusted the local government. We discuss these findings and draw conclusions about their implications for local structural reforms in an era of local and regional governance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1413-1438
Number of pages26
JournalTerritory, Politics, Governance
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • clustered local authorities
  • local democracy
  • local governance
  • local structural reforms
  • merged local authorities
  • multilevel governance
  • regional governance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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