The postwar municipal reform – an overview

Shortly after World War II, Norwegian authorities launched a municipal reform, which was not only ambitious, but also came to be quite prolonged. The state wanted strong municipalities to provide effective first-line welfare service, and harboured an idea that many municipalities were either economically too weak to fulfil these functions or simply too small to uphold a professional service of their own.

The reform resulted in a reduction from 744 units in 1945 to 454 in 1975. This was fewer than anticipated, and in the following decades, several efforts have been made to initiate reforms that are more thorough. So far, they have been largely without results, mainly because the state has refrained from using its most effective tool from the postwar reforms: legislation to force unwilling municipalities into amalgamations.

The reforms took different forms in different parts of the country.

In coastal districts, which had undergone fundamental changes from sea to land transportation, borders were restructured according to the new communication patterns. The most thorough changes came in urbanising areas, where growing towns and cities were enlarged by amalgamating rural municipalities nearby around an urban centre.