Study: Nearly half of the Dutch are critical of municipal mergers
Almost half of the Dutch think that the merger of municipalities is not good for the management of municipalities. In a survey conducted by ANP and Kieskompas, almost half (46 percent) of the Dutch expressed negative opinions about the repartition and merger of municipalities. Only 17 percent of respondents had a positive opinion.
Voters of ChristenUnie, PVV and FVD in particular see the redivision and merging of municipalities as a negative development. Of the supporters of these parties, almost 70 percent believe that this measure will be bad for local government. This percentage is significantly lower among VVD voters (37 percent) and voters for GroenLinks (36 percent), D66 (31 percent) and Volt (15 percent).
Redistricting can be done on the initiative of the municipalities themselves, but in special cases it can also be done on the initiative of the province. The provincial councils ultimately decide whether to carry out a municipal reclassification or merger. This happened recently in Zuid-Holland, where Brielle, Hellevoetsluis, and Westvoorne formed the new municipality of Voorne aan Zee as of this year. The province of Zuid-Holland has given a positive opinion on this to the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.
In 2022, the municipality of Weesp in North Holland was merged into the municipality of Amsterdam. Here, the province played an early role in the process. In 2017, the municipality of Weesp was asked to decide which other municipality it wanted to be part of, otherwise the province would make that decision. In a referendum, they then decided to join Amsterdam.
A municipal repartition was supposed to lead to more administrative efficiency and cost savings. However, critics, including a study by COELO (University of Groningen), pointed out that this type of merging could also lead to more distance between administration and citizens. Among other things, this would lead to lower voter turnout in municipal elections.
In 2023, the Netherlands will have a total of 342 municipalities. In 2019, when the last provincial council elections were held, there were 355. Ten years ago, there were 408 municipalities in the Netherlands.
The survey was conducted between February 24 and March 6 and completed by a representative group of over 2,400 Dutch citizens.
Reporting by ANP