Voters expect too much from their municipality: study
Netherlands residents have much higher expectations from their municipalities than their local governments can actually achieve, I&O Research and Berenschot found in a study. Due to lack of money, national regulations, and mandatory regional cooperation, municipalities have less freedom to make or implement plans themselves. That while their citizens expect them to do so, NRC reports.
The five most important themes in next week's municipal elections for voters are affordable housing, safety, municipal finances, sustainability, and quality of life. But according to the researchers, municipalities have very little control over the first four themes. National and legal requirements largely dictate these issues, and municipalities' influence is limited.
Municipalities are responsible for the quality of life and greenery. But as many municipalities have struggled with financial shortfalls since they became responsible for youth care in 2015, they are cutting back on things like libraries, playgrounds, and cultural institutions instead of investing more into them.
The researchers found that 80 percent of voters think that the municipality is largely responsible for its own income and expenditure. In reality, municipalities get 51 percent of their income from the national government, in addition to money for specific tasks. In principle, municipalities can use that money as they wish. But in reality, they are limited by legal requirements. Ten percent of municipalities' income comes from local taxes, mainly property tax. The coalition agreement made room for municipalities to increase these taxes to give them more financial leeway. But over 50 percent of voters are against tax increases.
Despite these often unfulfilled expectations, Netherlands residents have more confidence in their municipalities than in other tears of government, the researchers found. 55 percent of voters have confidence in their municipality, while 43 percent have confidence in the government as a whole, 35 percent in Ministers, and 35 percent in parliament.
"The danger is that this confidence will decline if voters misjudge their municipalities' options," researcher Peter Kanne said to the newspaper.