Citizens’ initiatives ignored by councils

Initiatives proposed by citizens are largely ignored by local councils, according to a survey carried out among 90% of the Netherlands’ local authorities, reports today’s Volkskrant.

The self-appointed Citizens Advice for Government Policy (BRR) sent a fictitious email to 450 local authorities proposing the setting up of a pensioners’ restaurant so that lonely old people could enjoy a meal in the company of others.
The mail was signed by ‘Eric van der Veer’, the head of fruit and vegetables department of a supermarket. ‘Van der Veer’ said he was taking the initiative to do something for his community in response to the government’s call for citizens to participate actively in society. This is a favourite theme of Jan Peter Balkenende’s cabinet.
The organisation says 32% of the local councils did not reply at all to Van der Veer’s request for assistance with the paperwork for his proposal. Another 17% simply acknowledged they had received the proposal.
Of the 51% that did respond, most replies were nothing more than routine ‘what a wonderful idea, we wish you good luck’ messages, founder Steven de Jong told the Volkskrant. He said only 13% were genuine replies containing advice or an invitation to discuss the proposal with local civil servants.
The BRR survey shows that the government’s motto ‘working together, living together’ is nothing more than an empty phrase, said De Jong.

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