As in other European Union countries, Spanish local governments, by law and according to their population size, provide a number of basic services, which include the local police service, fire-fighting, refuse collection, street cleaning, land use control, urban transportation, social services, leisure and cultural activities, public works and town planning, slaughterhouses, central markets, housing, etc. Only the larger Spanish municipalities participate in the delivery of services such as education or health, which are under regional government responsibility. The vast majority of Spanish municipalities are very small. Recently, some Autonomous Communities have been establishing supra-municipal or district authorities (Comarcas), grouping several municipalities in order to manage the delivery of common local services. Public-private partnership initiatives were introduced into Spain by the Municipal Services Act of 1955, which allows the provision of local services by private operators. This act was updated by the Public Contracting Act of 1995, which was recently amended to bring it into line with EU legislation. Spanish local governments have traditionally provided services using almost all PPP methods, such as local government corporations, concessions or franchises, lease of assets with or without additional investment, public-private ventures, associations with other local governments, public entities and non-profit organisations.
The results of our work on local service provision, set out in this paper, show a higher degree of PPP initiatives in medium-sized Spanish cities than in the rest. We find no statistical differences in the levels of efficiency observed in public and private urban transport operators. Finally, we observe both a need to update car park concessions in Spanish local administrations, incorporating mechanisms to increase efficiency, and an absence of homogeneity in these concessions because there is no unit that advises public authorities.