The Swedish Agency for Public Management

The provision of local government information (2014:26)

On behalf of the Government, Statskontoret (the Swedish Agency for Public Management) has surveyed information on local government and its operations. The commission has included particular emphasis on:

  • information concerning multiple sectors
  • the possibilities of securing the collection of information on e.g. population trends, demographic conditions, personnel provision, the scope of collaboration, the share of private operators and the operational results
  • the possibilities of securing the collection of information on more complex conditions, e.g. administrative requirements, the functioning of democracy, international cooperation, IT development and the influence of EU legislation on local government
  • the possibilities of securing information on central government steering as a whole and forms of steering used by central government
  • the identification of any significant knowledge gaps.

The commission's starting point was the central government's needs for an overview to follow the development of local government opportunities to manage its tasks and future challenges. The commission also included analysing whether the existing information is sufficient to provide central government with an overview to follow developments both in the local government sector as a whole and in individual municipalities. Statskontoret has identified gaps in significant information and submitted proposals on how central government can secure its information needs.

National information provision is an important basis for developing central government steering of municipalities and county councils. According to Statskontoret is the current information provision primarily based on official statistics, which means that national follow-up mainly has a sectoral focus. However, several investigations have indicated that these traditional statistics by sector are not fully capable of meeting the needs of national or local steering to view local government operations across all sectors. This sectoral information is not always a sufficient basis for evaluating and following up the effects of various central government policy instruments. There is thus a need for identifying, analysing and compiling information at an aggregate level and not only at the sectoral level.

Access to information varies

Based on its survey, Statskontoret notes that the quantity of information varies across the surveyed conditions, and that several areas have significant knowledge gaps. For most of the cross-sectoral conditions that we have studied, there is no agency assigned to collect and compile information. This means that it is difficult to find and gain a comprehensive overview of the information.

Deficiencies in quality, content and follow-up

There are certain deficiencies as regards the quality and content of information, e.g. in terms of topicality and accessibility. There are also few follow-ups of the surveyed conditions using qualitative methods in the form of investigations and evaluations.

The possibility of placing formal requirements on information collection

Statskontoret also notes that the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR) accounts for an important and extensive part of the information provision. In some areas, SALAR is the main source of information. However, this collection is based on the information needs of SALAR and the municipalities. There is thus a risk that certain basic requirements regarding the comparability of information over time or the frequency of information collection are not always met.

Knowledge gaps in certain areas of information

According to Statskontoret there is considerable knowledge gaps as regards the following information areas covered by its commission:

  • Inter-municipal collaboration. There is a lack of basic information on the extent of collaboration and on the areas and forms in which this takes place. Furthermore, there is a lack of studies regarding the positive and negative effects that collaboration has on aspects such as local government finances, organisation and supply of services.
  • IT development in the local government sector. Central government conducts no overall follow-up of IT development in the local government sector. There is, for example, a lack of information on the cost, use or benefit of IT for local government organisations or for residents.
  • The influence and administrative requirements of EU legislation. There is a lack of information providing an up-to-date view of the overall impact of EU law on local government areas of responsibility and of local government application of EU law.
  • Population and demographics are areas with small knowledge gaps. However, there are certain deficiencies as regards the availability of forecast information at the local government level.
  • Personnel and skills provision. Official statistics do not cover data on the activities of private operators. This means that there is no data covering certain personnel working with mandatory local government operations. Furthermore, forecast models are needed in order to assess local government requirements for personnel and skills.

Important issues for the future

This survey has identified some general issues and factors that should be taken into account in future work on the national provision of local government information:

  • Central government knowledge needs are not only met by means of statistical and quantitative data, but need to be supplemented with other methods and analyses.
  • Cross-sectoral knowledge needs to be supplemented with financial and sectoral information to provide an overview by which to follow developments both in the local government sector as a whole and in individual municipalities.
  • National information provision should include consideration of whether information is needed on all municipalities or whether it is sufficient and more relevant to have information on only certain types of municipalities.
  • A process is needed to identify future needs of cross-sectoral information and to identify appropriate actors to be responsible for information provision.
  • It is important to continue the development of cross-sectoral information in the Municipality and County Council Database, Kolada.
  • It is important for the relevant central government actors to have dialogue with SALAR on the role that the vast information quantities collected by SALAR can play in central government information provision.
  • It is important for central government to monitor and harness the possibilities offered by technological developments in order to, among other things, streamline information collection and limit the data submission burden on local government.