After putting down the Pugachev rebellion in 1774, Catherine decided to decentralize administration of the Russian government. But she didn’t set up a federated government with separate powers; rather, she set up a system of administrative units that were altogether creatures of the central government. They served to strengthen her system of centralized control. “Historical and regional considerations were completely disregarded in the drawing of the boundaries.” (I’m just now reading this in A History of Russia, 4th ed., by Nicholas V. Riasanovsky, 1984, pp 261-262.)
Autocrats do not like local government that has any separate authority. Local administration, yes. Local authority, no.
For example, New Jersey governor Jon Corzine wants to pressure small towns to merge, according to a Jim Manzi article at The American Scene. Other pretexts are given, but one suspects the real issue is to bring local governments under the thumb of the state.
Jennifer Granholm has been trying to do the same sort of thing here in Michigan. Township government is strong here, so she is trying to get townships to consolidate, as a way of streamlining government. A streamlined government, of course, is the last thing we need.