The Swedish Agency for Public Management

Government agencies' localisation. Overall documentation (2016:8)

On behalf of the government, Statskontoret (the Agency for Public Management) has produced an overall documentation of government agencies' decisions on localisation. In the report, we put forward a proposal for starting points which may be used as guides for government agencies' work with issues relating to localisation. The starting points have been drawn up on the basis of our empirical studies and current constitutional requirements that are put on all government agencies.

The report presents a survey of state presence, locally and regionally. It goes on to analyse government agencies' decisions on localisation and their collaboration and coordination in decisions on localisation.

The report also presents a study of the importance of government agencies' decisions on localisation for the local and regional labour markets. We include an examination of the public's perceptions of state presence, locally and regionally.

Statskontoret's proposal for starting points that may be used as guides for government agencies' localisation

  • The localisation of government agencies may be specified by the government through a letter of instruction. If not, it is a matter that can be decided by the government agencies' management.
  • Decisions on localisation within government agencies should be taken by the agencies' management. The decision should be based on an overall impact analysis that is docu­men­ted.
  • The localisation of agencies must be determined on the basis of their commission, as stated in the letter of instruction, statutes that are specific for their operations and the appropriations document­.
  • When they make such decisions, government agencies must base them on­­ the requirements stipulated in the government agencies ordinance to conduct operations efficiently and to be economic with­ government resources. The same requirement is put in the regulation on government agencies'­ supply of premises.
  • Government agencies must base their localisation decisions on the service requirements for­ their operations.
  • Government agencies should consider new types of physical service to meet demographic developments.
  • In decisions on localisation, government agencies must take regional growth into account­.
  • Prior to making decisions on localisation, government agencies should consult with county administrative boards ­and other relevant government agencies.
  • The government agencies should consider that geographical clusters of government agencies can create regional labour market­ effects and facilitate the supply of skills to government agencies­.
  • The government agencies should consider whether they, together with other government agencies, have the potential in the long term of creating new geographical clusters of government agencies on the­ basis of regional growth needs.
  • The government agencies should continue to develop their digital service, since it is geographically independent.
  • The government agencies should take into account that digitalisation can make their operations geo­gra­phically independent.

The government sets the framework for government agencies' localisation

  • The government has the overall responsibility for government agencies'­ locali­sation and should monitor its development.
  • The government should give Statistics Sweden the commission of supplementing the general agency register with details of where the government agencies are located.
  • The government can state the localisation of all or some of the government agencies through their instructions.
  • The government can extend the scope for government agencies to give consideration to regional conditions­ by making changes to the government agencies ordinance.
  • The government should select formal means of governance in issues concerning the localisation­ of­ government agencies, since this has a large impact on their operations.

The presence of government agencies varies across the country

In 2014 there were 235,000 people working in government agencies. They are represented­­ in all the counties and in 265 municipalities. 60% of government agencies­ have their head offices in Stockholm County. Government workplaces are often in large cities.

In absolute terms, the number of government jobs decreased most in the smallest urban areas, i.e. with a population of up to 10,000. In total, 133 workplaces in these areas were closed during the period 2008 - 2014.

Most government employees are in the counties of Stockholm, Västra Götaland, Skåne and Uppsala. 72% of employees have higher education.

Relative to the county population, the number of government employees is highest in the counties of Uppsala, Norrbotten and Stockholm. The lowest is in the counties of Kalmar, Jönköping and Kronoberg.

The proportion of government employees has increased in towns with at least 50,000 inhabitants­ during the period 2008 - 2014. The proportion of government jobs in towns with over 50,000 inhabitants has increased slightly compared with other sectors and ­the proportion of the population living in those towns. 

The number of service workplaces has decreased during the period 2008 - 2014, but are still present in most municipalities. These workplaces are often in municipalities ­that can be considered to be county administrative centres.

In many parts of the country, the government plays an important role in providing qualified jobs for people with higher education. The highest proportions of qualified government jobs­ are found in the counties of Uppsala, Gotland and Västerbotten.

Government agencies' decisions on localisation can be explained by agencies' commissions

Statskontoret's analysis shows that government agencies rarely make decisions on localisation per se. Localisation is more often the result of other decisions made by government agencies­.

The localisation of agencies is generally justified on the basis of their commissions and financial conditions. Government agencies estimate that local presence is becoming less important in meeting service­obligations­­ due to digitalisation.

Collaboration between government agencies on localisation often takes place late in the decision-making process

According to the ordinance on regional growth work, government agencies must consult the relevant county administrative board prior to making decisions on localisation. Only a few government agencies­­ have consulted county administrative boards and municipalities in conjunction­ with decisions to move operations and workplaces. If collaboration does take place, it is often late in the process.

One explanation could be that the role of government agencies in regional growth work does not weigh as heavily as other requirements when agencies decide on how to­­ organise their operations.

Statskontoret considers that government agencies should consult county administrative boards and other government agencies involved prior to making any change to their localisation­. Statskontoret judges that the county administrative boards' established role as initiators of­­ various forms of consultation, cooperation and exchange of experience makes them natural consultation partners for government agencies.

Localisation has small labour market effects

Statskontoret's analysis shows that the localisation of government agencies has little impact on local and regional labour markets.  The number of additional jobs ­is approximately the same as those localised to the government agencies.

Even though the localised workplaces are relatively large and are some of the largest individual employers in each region, they are rarely enough to have a radical effect on the labour market, for instance in acting as nodes in a growing cluster of organisations around the government agencies.

The public value government agencies' service above all

In their contact with government agencies, many members of the public consider that the most important aspect is having their issues dealt with quickly and obtaining answers to their questions. People in smaller communities more often want to visit­ government agencies physically, as compared with those living in towns and cities. People with a foreign background more often want to visit government agencies' offices to get help with their issues.

Our public survey shows that many people prefer to receive government agencies' service online rather than visiting the agency in person. Agencies should therefore continue to develop their digital services. Digital service is often cost-effective and can provide equal service levels throughout the country.  If a government agency has an office in the municipality, this increases the likelihood of people choosing to visit the agency.

The survey also shows that the public are almost twice as satisfied with services from the Public Employment Service, the Social Insurance Agency and the police when these agencies have their offices in the person's own municipality.

We have also compared customer satisfaction with service availability ­i.e. whether the agency has an office in the municipality or not. In general, people feel that access to supermarkets and healthcare centres is more important than having government agency offices in their municipality.

The survey shows that there is little variation between different types of municipality concerning the perception of ­how important the agency is for the municipality­. In rural areas, government agencies are regarded as slightly more important­ for the inhabitants of a municipality, followed by town areas and then city ­­areas.