Austerity measures and budget impact in municipalities: from political claims to empirical evidences
Lluís Medir Tejado (UB)
Esther Pano (UB – Pi i Sunyer)
Jaume Magre (UB – Pi i Sunyer)
Europe and particularly the southern countries are undergoing a severe economic crisis that has renewed debates about the available strategies to economize their public resources in order to reduce the deficit. In this framework political leaders, both in the national and in the local level, have launched a wide range of different strategies aimed at diminish spending in a very short term. According to a generally accepted political discourse, relevant and drastic actions should be taken to warrantee economic and financial sustainability in times of austerity.
In this article we explore the main measures adopted by municipalities in order to examine their impact in budgetary terms. We firstly identify the most frequently implemented mechanisms including structural changes into the field of the political architecture (remunerations of the mayors, and other political staff, for instance), reorganisation of the public services (both from the input as for the output perspective) and operational economic restructuration (control and fiscal actions). Once identified and quantified, we monitor the presence and extent of each set of policies with a view to analysing their performance and effective impact and drawing hypothetical patterns of behaviour. Our main objective is to analyse the relation between concrete measures, mainly based on general political claims, and effective economic impact.
Data was gathered by launching a questionnaire targeted to the administration and economic chief (Interventor) so as to identify the local austerity measures in 2013. Information about the municipal budgets for the years 2011, 2012 and 2013 is also used with the purpose of operationalizing economic impact. The questionnaire was included into the project “Local Government Observatory” coordinated by the Pi i Sunyer Foundation, covering 620 municipalities in Catalonia with population above 500 inhabitants.
Keywords: local governments, mayoral leadership, austerity measures, budget cuts.