IDEA assists municipalities in merger research
Local authorities are stimulated by the Flemish government to think about strengthening their administrative power (self-evaluation, administrative power monitor) and to thereby consider a merger as an option. The voluntary merger is actively supported by Minister of Internal Affairs, Liesbeth Homans with a ‘merger bonus' (€ 500 per capita debt assumption), and a number of other guarantees (see merger decree). Numerous political scientists and experts consider this development as a step forward, albeit one subject to numerous conditions. However, the local authorities themselves are reluctant to enter into administrative scaling up and consider inter-municipal cooperation as a satisfactory alternative.
Meanwhile, the ball is rolling in two places and both Kruishoutem and Zingem (East Flanders) and Opglabbeek and Meeuwen-Gruitrode (Limburg) are in serious discussions with one another. In both places, IDEA supports the boards in balancing the pros and cons and preparing a merger dossier. This merger file is intended to enable the councils concerned to take a decision in principle on their administrative future.
IDEA evaluates the impact of the merger of the two key components of administrative power, namely the capacity and the mandate. Both can be strengthened by the merger, but the conditions do vary depending on the specific characteristics and context of each board. Absolute statements about the added value are otherwise impossible. The potential can be described, but whether or not it can be realised still depends on the extent to which boards base their policy accordingly and demonstrate the decisiveness to realise it.