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A Needs and Resources Assessment of Fiscal Equalisation in the Irish Local Government System

Author

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  • Gerard Turley

    (National University of Ireland, Galway)

  • Darragh Flannery

    (University of Limerick)

  • Stephen McNena

    (National University of Ireland, Galway)

Abstract

In 2000 the central government in Ireland introduced a formula-based needs and resources equalisation model in its local government system to ensure that the allocation of general purpose grants to local authorities was done in an equitable manner. However, the equalisation model is lacking in transparency, with few details publicly available as to its exact specification. Within this context, the purpose of this paper is to critically assess fiscal equalisation in Ireland’s local government system. More specifically we address the question of whether general purpose equalisation grants bear any relation to expenditure needs and fiscal resources. We achieve this by estimating our own model based upon a number of indicators of potential need and available resources. We outline a number of alternative equalisation models based on different objective criteria, and compare the simulated allocations resulting from the alternative models to the actual general purpose grants, with a view to partly explaining past allocations but also identifying improvements in the future design of fiscal equalisation in Ireland. Our findings show politically sensitive redistribution away from county councils towards city councils, resulting in new winners and losers. The results for Dublin City Council raise the question of whether, given its population size, level of economic activity and budget, it should be treated separately and as a special case with respect to intergovernmental fiscal relations in Ireland.

Suggested Citation

  • Gerard Turley & Darragh Flannery & Stephen McNena, 2015. "A Needs and Resources Assessment of Fiscal Equalisation in the Irish Local Government System," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 46(3), pages 459-484.
  • Handle: RePEc:eso:journl:v:46:y:2015:i:3:p:459-484
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. James M. Buchanan, 1952. "Federal Grants and Resource Allocation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 60, pages 208-208.
    2. Richard M Bird & Andrey V Tarasov, 2004. "Closing the Gap: Fiscal Imbalances and Intergovernmental Transfers in Developed Federations," Environment and Planning C, , vol. 22(1), pages 77-102, February.
    3. Robin Boadway, 2004. "The Theory and Practice of Equalization," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 50(1), pages 211-254.
    4. Daniel Bergvall & Claire Charbit & Dirk-Jan Kraan & Olaf Merk, 2006. "Intergovernmental Transfers and Decentralised Public Spending," OECD Journal on Budgeting, OECD Publishing, vol. 5(4), pages 111-158.
    5. James M. Buchanan, 1952. "Federal Grants and Resource Allocation: A Reply," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 60, pages 536-536.
    6. Ridge, M, 1992. "Local government finance and equalisation: the case of Ireland," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 13(3), pages 54-73, January.
    7. Oakland, William H., 1994. "Fiscal Equalization: An Empty Box?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 47(1), pages 199-209, March.
    8. Oakland, William H., 1994. "Fiscal Equalization: An Empty Box?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 47(1), pages 199-209, March.
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    Keywords

    fiscal equalisation; local government; Ireland;

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