Sunday 17 October 2021

Support deprived areas or risk social cohesion collapse, mayors tell next cabinet

Rotterdam has the highest proportion of poor families in the Netherlands. Photo: Depositphotos.com

A number of mayors, including those of Lelystad, Amsterdam and Tilburg, have called on the next government to invest more and to take ‘unorthodox measures’ to support deprived areas in their cities.

In a letter to the coalition negotiators, 15 mayors, supported by a number of educational and other organisations, warn of a structural gap between more affluent areas and areas where around a million people are having to cope with poverty, debt and low educational levels. This, they say, has been aggravated by the coronavirus crisis.

This situation is ‘undermining social cohesion’ and poses ‘a threat to liveability and safety’. The mayors warn about the creation of ‘parallel societies’ which would foment distrust between citizens and the authorities and allow organised crime to gain a foothold.

An integrated approach by local councils and organisations would cost some €500m a year, the mayors said. They also want a bigger legal mandate to tackle ‘stubborn problems’ with measures that are not possible now because of bureaucratic divisions between services in the area of housing, education and work.

The mayors said an example to follow is a Rotterdam project National Programme Rotterdam Zuid, which is offering a job guarantee to youngsters who finish their vocational training and affordable housing for people on middle incomes. The programme was started in 2012 and will be in place until 2032.

‘It will take time but we have to tackle the problems in these areas. We have to give the people there more perspective and a chance to fulfill the potential they most certainly have. Young people have the right to grow up with equal opportunities,’ Tilburg mayor Theo Weterings told broadcaster NOS.

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