In this article, the author identifies "timing" as the most crucial factor in explaining why local governments in Continental Europe were unable to adopt the Scandinavian model of social service provision. In these countries, greater local-level fiscal autonomy and service provision responsibilities occurred within a context of increasing social needs and strong economic constraints. Moreover, local governments lacked well-institutionalised social service systems at the time of these growing demands. Given these competing pressures, local governments were incapable of developing adequate policy responses. Trends towards greater fiscal austerity coupled with an expected increase in social needs render more expansive provision unlikely.