The role of the municipalities
Sweden's 290 municipalities are responsible for a larger share of public services in comparison with the situation in most other countries. Three-quarters of the activities of the municipalities are directly related to demographic factors and are determined by the number of inhabitants, their age and their state of health.
Swedish municipalities, county councils and regions are responsible for providing a significant proportion of all public services. They have a considerable degree of autonomy and have independent powers of taxation.
Local self-government and the right to levy taxes are stipulated in the Instrument of Government, one of the four pillars of the Swedish Constitution. Sweden's municipalities, county councils and regions have a great deal of freedom to organise their activities as they see fit. Their responsibilities are regulated partly in the Local Government Act and partly in laws and ordinances covering specific areas, for example the Social Services Act, the Planning and Building Act, the Education Act and the Health and Medical Services Act. The scope for local and regional self-government is also affected by decisions taken by the European Union.
Assemblies and executive committees
Municipal and county council/regional assemblies are the highest decision-making bodies at the local and regional levels. All assembly meetings are open to the public. Between assembly meetings, matters are managed by the executive committee
The municipalities are service providers in the fields of care, social services, education and infrastructure.
The municipalities are legally or contractually responsible for the following:
- Social services
- Childcare and preschools
- Elderly care
- Support for the physically and intellectually disabled
- Primary and secondary education
- Planning and building issues
- Health and environmental protection
- Refuse collection and waste management
- Emergency services and emergency preparedness
- Water and sewerage
Other activities on a voluntary basis, for example:
- Leisure activities
- Cultural activities, apart from libraries, which are a statutory responsibility
- Industrial and commercial services