The term “Regional Cooperation”
There are many terms used to describe communities working together to share information, services or otherwise support one another.
These partnerships include:
- Inter-municipal cooperation
- Community partnerships
- Regional cooperation or partnerships
- Service sharing
- Regional service delivery arrangements
In some cases only municipal partners are involved, in others municipalities may also collaborate with unincorporated communities, the private sector, community groups and/or other levels of government. The CCO uses the term regional cooperation to encompass a wide range of possible sharing arrangements. Our focus is regional efforts involving one or more municipalities, often in partnership with other sectors, sharing efforts, expertise and resources, to improve municipal governance, services and/or community well being more broadly.
Benefits of regional cooperation
Benefits from regional cooperation in Newfoundland and Labrador include:
- cost savings through economies of scale, reduced administration/duplication and cost sharing
- access to new financial resources (e.g. financial incentives from government, pooling of budgets)
- ability to provide a service or level of service quality that could not be provided on your own
- access to new or improved human resources, technical expertise or facilities/infrastructure
- consistency in service delivery
- innovation, new ideas from research and dialogue
- sharing risks and responsibilities, supporting one another
- building relationships and social capital
- ability to improve performance and meet increasingly replacementent health and environmental standards
Communities that have cooperated with other communities and partners in municipal service delivery, advocacy and community development report a range of benefits from their regional cooperation efforts.
According to the 2003 Census of Municipalities in Labrador the most common reason for regional cooperation among local governments in the province is to cut costs. While in many cases cost savings were achieved due to economies of scale, reduced administration and duplication, and sharing of both costs and knowledge, it must be noted that the benefits of cooperation are not the same for every location or service. In some cases communities found that operating a service regionally increased costs or, for other reasons, was not feasible. Communities must analyze the costs and benefits of regional efforts before deciding to proceed.
Case study research conducted by the CCO in 2005 revealed that the economic benefits of cooperation in Newfoundland and Labrador extend far beyond cutting costs. Another important benefit is access to new financial resources, particularly to financial incentives from provincial and federal governments. Communities have also gained greater political voice by joining together.
The second most common reason for regional cooperation is to maintain or increase the services local governments are able to offer their residents. Many communities have found that together they are able to provide a service or level of service quality that they could otherwise not afford, benefiting from access to new or improved human resources and expertise, equipment or facilities/infrastructure. Sharing new ideas and research findings in ongoing dialogue has facilitated innovation and adaptation in service delivery. Consistency, coordination and a more planned approach have reduced both competition among communities and confusion for residents and businesses over different rules and regulations in neighbouring communities, for example.
Municipalities involved in sharing information, services and resources with others also report that building relationships and social capital is a significant benefit gained from supporting one another, sharing the ever-increasing risks and responsibilities associated with municipal governance.
Finally, communities working together as a region have reduced their environmental impact and improved their ability to meet increasingly replacementent health and environmental standards. Reducing landfills sites, improving landfill management and water quality monitoring practices, along with the ability to finance costly sewage treatment facilities are just a few specific examples.
(Source: Case Studies in Municipal Service Sharing in Newfoundland and Labrador by K. Vodden (2005))
Other benefits observed from Nova Scotia
Control: Can provide jurisdictions with increased local control and direct oversight
Design options: Cooperative arrangements permit endless flexibility as to details such as partners, subject, duration, and cost
Avoiding the alternatives: Another level of government, mandated solutions, amalgamation
• Recognize features which transcend municipal boundaries –i.e. crime, watershed, traffic movement
• Serve area which better matches community of interest
(Source: Municipal Cooperation and Partnership: Role, Pros & Cons, Benefits, Presenter John Robison of John Robison Inc., Municipal Cooperation and Partnerships Seminar at the AMA Fall Conference (2003))
“Most often cooperative arrangements result in actual dollar savings, improved or sustained delivery of services or programs, and an enhanced ability to share costs and skills. The process of partnership encourages compromise, consultation, evaluation, strategic planning, and goal setting. It optimizes use of knowledge and know-how of the partnering municipalities, helps to eliminate duplication of effort, and promotes a culture of organizational co-operation. Cooperative arrangements are a natural offshoot of the bench marking and best practices process”.
(Source: Handbook on Inter-Municipal Partnership and Co-operation for Municipal Government, Nova Scotia Department of Community Services (2003))
"Co-operation is a central thrust of the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP). The ESDP along with several other European, national and regional policy documents argue that, in the same way as clustering and networking play an important role in business competition and economic competitiveness of firms, cities and regions can also become successful if they develop associational structures in their social relationships. The ESDP states that, “in smaller towns in less densely settled and economically weaker regions, co-operation between urban centres to develop functional complementarities may be the only possibility for achieving viable markets and maintaining economic institutions and services” (ESDP, 1999: para: 76). It also emphasizes that, “a pre-requisite [therefore] is the voluntary nature of the co-operation and the equal rights of the partners (para. 74). It is argued that by encouraging interaction between neighbouring cities and towns and by pooling together and sharing labour market and infrastructure facilities amongst them, economic innovation will be enhanced and functional synergies will be created".
(Source: WP5: Governing Polycentricity. Report on ESPON Project 1.1.1 The Role, Specific Situation and Potentials for Urban Areas as Nodes of Polycentric Development. By Davoudi, S., I. Strange, M. Wishardt. Centre for Urban Development and Environmental Management, LeedsMetropolitanUniversity, LeedsUK (2004))