Thursday 09 February 2023

How do local councils work and what do they do?

The town hall (and tourist information) in De Rijp

The main tasks of local councils include ensuring sufficient housing, building local roads, tunnels and cycle tracks, collecting and processing waste, providing schools and libraries, issuing documents like passports, dealing with welfare (bijstand) claims and ensuring proper long term residential and home care.

Some 90% of local council funding in the Netherlands comes from national government. Councils themselves raise money through local property taxes, waste collection and water charges, parking fees, tourist taxes and dog taxes.

Local councils, or gemeentes are the third tier in the Dutch government system, below the national and provincial authorities. There are currently 380, ranging in size from Amsterdam and Rotterdam to small villages. Amsterdam and Rotterdam also have a fourth layer, the district committees, which focus on very local issues.

How many councillors does a gemeenteraad have?
The number of councillors in a gemeenteraad depends on the size of the local authority area. Councils with a population of more than 200,000 residents have 45 members or councillors and the smallest, with fewer than 3,000 residents, just nine.

Local councils are run by the mayor (who is appointed by the crown) and a team of wethouders, or aldermen. The college van burgemeester en wethouders (B&W) is the local authority equivalent of the cabinet.

So do we have the same coalition formation process as in national government?
Yes. The number of parties taking part and the Dutch electoral system makes coalition councils inevitable and the parties are already bickering about who will or won’t work with the PVV. As soon as the votes have been counted, work begins on putting together a working coalition. Once a coalition has been identified and agreed, the councillors from the ruling parties appoint the aldermen who are, in effect, local government ministers. This process can take several weeks.

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