From Municipal Cooperation
- IMC is relevant for improving performance in all the functions assigned by law to a municipality.
- IMC is particularly relevant in decentralized public administration contexts where a large number of functions are devolved from central government to the municipalities.
- IMC is relevant for all municipalities irrespective of their size, but it is particularly relevant to small municipalities which taken individually do not have the required population size, capacity and resources to perform efficiently and effectively a wide range of functions.
History and the political environment have had a strong impact on the development of IMC in each country. The number of administrative tiers within a country, the distribution of responsibilities between the different tiers of government, the scope and autonomy of local government, and the number and size of the municipalities to a great extent determine the need for and possible advantages of IMC. The demand for IMC is particularly high in countries with a large number of very small municipalities. In Western Europe, not surprisingly, IMC is very common, such as in Spain, with over 8,000 municipalities (with an average of 5,500 inhabitants), Italy, with approximately the same number of municipalities (with an average of 7,000 inhabitants) and Switzerland, with its 2,700 very small communes (with an average of 2,800 inhabitants).
IMC is often seen as an alternative for territorial consolidation. The promotion of IMC is sometimes the only realistic option to improve efficiency and effectiveness in the performance of municipal functions since there is political resistance to territorial consolidation. At times, IMC is a conscious policy of the authorities aimed at enhancing trust among the involved parties and at being a step towards future municipal amalgamation. France, for instance, has a long and rich experience in IMC, because the strong sense of municipal autonomy prevented an amalgamation policy and left the country with 36,682 municipalities (21,000 of which have less than 500 inhabitants) and about 13,500 IMC entities. In Spain, for instance, 72 percent of the country’s 8,000 municipalities participate in at least one of the country’s 953 mancomunidades, the Spanish public law IMC structure.