The recent reform of public local services leaves many questions unanswered with respect to the delicate relationship between public action and private initiative in managing the heterogeneous set of services labelled as «non-industrial». The impression is rather that of a partial reform, in which the most relevant aspects have been left unregulated, generating uncertainty and leaving wide room for discretionary choices on the part of public local administrations. In such a respect, the mere privatisation of a services strongly differs from the full operation of competitive mechanisms; the possibility of monopolistic behaviour is totally independent on the actual property, either public or private, of cultural institutions. The paper critically examines the various forms of public/private partnership, highlighting their neglectable differential influence upon the degree of competition. The crucial issue is then the identification of both the area and limits of public local action.