Drawing on a detailed analysis of seven past decentralising reforms, this report argues that the overarching problem that those seeking to decentralise political power must tackle is at once obvious and knotty.

Decentralising requires a major co-ordination effort. At least three main groups must either support or acquiesce to reforms: national politicians; local politicians; and, of course, the public. These groups often have different interests, are not internally cohesive, and have differing priorities and values – all factors which make securing sufficient support difficult. As important, all of these groups have considerable power to block or undermine reforms they dislike.

The report identifies 10 obstacles that any reform programme needs to overcome to be successful.