In 1959, just seven years after Sweden had implemented a reform of the division of the municipalities, the Social Democratic government considered that there could be need for a second reform, and consequently a commission was launched. In the first part of 1961 a proposal for a reform was delivered. The country would be divided into municipal blocks, which should normally have at least inhabitants 1975. The blocks should be built up though the chief town principle, and should be economically and geographical continuous areas, which had a close relationship with the chief town principle. A parliamentary majority, considered of Social Democrats, Communists and Liberals, stood behind a policy decision, taken in early 1962, to implement the reform in accordance with the commission’s proposals. Only the municipal blocks formation was compulsory. All municipal aggregation would be done on a voluntary basis by Local Authorities own initiative.
During 1963 and 1964 the Government stipulated that the country’s 1006 municipalities would form 282 municipal blocks. In 1965, 1967 and 1969 the number of municipalities was reduced from 1006 to 848. The Social Democratic government considered that number insufficient. So the party, immediately after the victory in the 1968 election, went in for using a coercive law in order to complete the reform at the latest 1974. Parliamentary decision on compulsory legislation was adopted in 1969 with a conflict following the block boundary. The Social Democrats and the Left Communists wanted coercive legislation, while the three non-Socialist parties were against removing voluntariness. The Socialist reversal was a breach of faith in relation to the parliamentary decision 1962. The change in position was hardly in favor of the party in the elections in 1970 and 1973.
The reform was completed by aggregations in 1971 and 1974, where the largest aggregation time was 1971. Then the number of municipalities decreased from 848 to 464. By 1974 there were only 278 left. 49 municipalities were pooled coercively. Most of them had Conservative majority. There was a dividing line between the Social Democrats and the non-Socialists at the municipal aggregation decisions, where the non-Socialist parties to a much greater extent took a stand against aggregation. The main reason for the opposition was a fear of a loss of municipal services as a result of the centralization to the central town. Municipal democratic motives were raised, however, more sparingly. The same was true of reasons related to the concept of local identity.
The Swedish municipality block reform was more ambitions than in the other Nordic countries. An important reason for the scale of aggregating was that the Social Democratic government showed great energy to implement the reform fully, despite of a lot of local protests. Another reason may have been that the public expansion was greatest in Sweden. On the other hand lower government spending, another task allocation in the public sector, lower degree of urbanization and less influence for Socialist parties and credible explanations for sparse or non-existent municipal aggregations.
Stockholm: Stads- och kommunhistoriska institutet , 2013, 1. , 602 p.
Municipal blocks, aggregations, coercive law, public expansion.