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Issue 3-4, 1982 Expand all abstracts

Access_open La fusion des communes

Un bilan provisoire

Authors Joseph Michel

    The adaptation of the new municipal entities to present-day social life is a success. The concentration of the local administration with better organized services has left human relations unaffected. The amalgamation of the territory and its administration has effected a more equitable distribution of the casts. Considering the administration, the new municipalities could have been bigger but the human dimensions did not allow such enlargement. In most cases, the amalgamation contributed to the inception of a real social and economie entity. But the deliberations did not always lead to new municipalities that would normally have been required. In view of the rationalisation and improvement of the services the new municipality has succeeded. More goods and services are being distributed for the same cost. The amalgamation of the municipalities led to better organization and more efficiency of the administration. The power to manage increased. Concerning municipal finances, the amalgamation operation has not caused any deficits. The causes of the deficits have to be sought elsewhere: a tendency to extend social benefits and to overstaff, the transformation of the Centers for Public Assistance into Public Centers for Social Welf are, the failure of the national government to fulfil its financial obligations vis-à-vis the municipalities. In addition to these causes, errors in judgment have compromised the finances of many municipalities. On the whole, the amalgamations have been a success.

Joseph Michel

Access_open De samenvoeging van de gemeenten

Het kader van een onvoltooid gebleven hervormingsproces

Authors Rudolf Maes

    In Belgium, the number of municipalities was reduced from 2,663 to 596 by means of amalgamation. In the sketching of the framework of this reform, attention is first of all given to the manner in which the consensus required for it could be obtained. At the same time, the criteria employed and the pragmaticapplication thereof are investigated. Then, the new municipal division is tested for the motives and objectives that lay at the foundation of this reform. The expectations involved were in large measure, related to the effects that were seen as the inherent consequence of the expansion of the territorial scale of the municipalities. Finally, this reform is tested with respect to other than territorial components of the municipal administrative power. The reform remains incomplete on several points. This appears, for example, from the continuing absence of functional reforms with regard to decentralisation and from the lack of attention for the adjustment of the municipal working rules both in the area of effective administration as wellt as in the area of open and democratie administration.

Rudolf Maes

    The amalgamation of the municipalities has had profound effects on the municipal character in Belgium: the village has disappeared as a political entity. The «municipality» since 1976 is at least the political and administrative amalgamation of a number of villages. The effect of this amalgamation on the municipal council elections is expressed first of all in the shift in the election form. Uncontested elections disappeared in 1976. The exclusively local election form occurred rarely in 1976, even though this form was still the most common in 1970. However, the mixed election form increased very considerably. Parallel with the amalgamation of the municipalities, the national party pattern penetrated increasingly into the municipal polities: there occurred a gradual «nationalisation» of the municipal polities. The «urban citizens» became more «state citizens», also in municipal matters. Regarding direct municipal executive appointment, the amalgamation led to a less far-reaching and less decisive character of the input, which are characteristics that also tend to follw the national pattern more strongly. The number of municipalities in which no coalition executive needed to be formed clearly declined in 1976. The amalgamation has reduced the uniqueness of the municipal council elections and the decisionmaking capacity of the urban citizens and introduced more national political content.

Wilfried Dewachter

    On the level of the administrative power of the municipalities, the amalgamations did not lead to an increase of their authority. In addition, the distance between the citizen and the administration has increased in three ways: the increased distances between the centres and the outlying residential zones raised the problem of intramunicipal service provision; the social distance also increased because of the increase of the influence of and the importance attached to the municipal executive body; the expansion of the tasks of the administrators led to an organisational distance. The political policy structures have also been profoundly changed after the amalgamations: the national parties have gained in influence; political instability has increased; the structures were adapted to the new situation; the operation of the local policy organs has changed; the municipal councils acquired a more intellectually oriented professional composition.

Georges Anthoon

Access_open Inspraak in de gefusioneerde gemeenten

Authors Herman Wuyts

    Participation is more than «have a voice in the decision-making process. It is reached when this kind of consultation results in an effective influence upon the decision itself. Have a voice in the matter is, on theother hand, more than information that, in its turn, consists of two streams: one from the top to the bottom, and one from the bottom to the top. The loss of communal mandatories as a consequence of the amalgamation in 1976 has stressed the necessity of expanding this kind of political activity of the citizens. Comparison between a field research of 1975 and one of 1982 makes clear that there is an increase of information activity in the communes, mostly however of the kind that doesnot invite to active participation. There also is an increase of participation-councils but it is rather impossible to compare the effect of this kind of participatory activity with researchresults of the past. In comparison with other European countries there is found a large arrears in territorial decentralization and direct citizen decision-making. For the future it is asked to write in the new communal law the obligation for communes to organize participation activities and to give the citizens a guarantee of participation.

Herman Wuyts

Access_open De personeelsbezetting in de gefusioneerde gemeenten

Een proeve van evaluatie

Authors Roger Depré

    The essence of a policy evaluation of the personnel situation in the amalgamated municipalities is to investigate the degree to which the amalgamation as instrument achieved the present objectives and thedegree to which the instruments used have contributed to it. Such an evaluation is complicated by the fact that insufficient attention was given to the objectives in the amalgamation policy and to the time period within which they had to be achieved. From the analysis, it appears, in any case, that the number of personnel grew after the amalgamation in the local administrations more than in others. This applies in particular to the public welfare agencies. This growth is probably to be ascribed more to the social evolution than to the amalgamation operation. The demonstration of scale effects is not easy because of the lack of diachronic studies. The fact that large municipalities have relatively more personnel than small municipalities may not be deduced from an increase of the population. The diachronic study of the percentage of the total expenditures for personnel shows that this part has decreased, which could indicate a scale effect. However, one has, at this time, insufficient information of the factors that explain the amount of personnel so that a change in that amount cannot simply be ascribed to the amalgamation. At the same time, the hypothesis is formulated that the amalgamation of the municipalities as a policy measure bas not brought about many changes on the level of policy implementation. This can be explained by the lack of an accompanying strategy for change. It does not suffice to vote for a law to bring about a fundamental change.

Roger Depré

    The credit policy of the«Communal Bank» is based on objective criteria in order to respect local autonomy. The financial results of the consolidation are difficult to determine. Several factors could have influenced the present state of municipal finances: the consolidation being done in a period of economic difficulties, the crisis of the public finances, the reform of the Municipal Fund, and the transformation of the Centers for Public Assistance into Public Centers for Social Welf are. The consolidations did not generale any savings, but it al,so did not cause an alarming increase of expenses. With respect to budget balancing, the amalgamated municipalities should do better than the non-amalgamated municipalities. To keep the increase of expenses low in comparison with the revenues, the municipalities had to make cuts in several sectors. As to the current fniancial situation in the three regions, the municipalities of the Brussels regon are in a very painful situation; in Flanders, the number of municipalities with deficits is higher than in Wallonia, but the deficits in W allonia are bigger. To stop this negative evolution one must strive for balanced budgets and reshape them into reliable instruments.

Gerrit Van Daele

    The integration factor can mean, on the one hand, absorption of the sub-municipalities into the amalgamated municipality and, on the other hand, greater autonomy for the sub-municipalities. Complete integration in all policy areas is not possible nor desirable. Integration of centres can only be considered primarily in function of better organised service provision and also in function of supporting typical village life. Economic yields and an administration that is close to the people must be increasinglycoupled in an optimal balance. The increase of developmental opportunities of municipalities must take place more and more via preservation and reinforcement of the viability of the villages. Concerns for local interests must be lifted partially toward a functional integration in the broader amalgamated whole. The national and Flemish regional governments must make more funds available to this end so that the effects of such integration wilt not remain limited to an equalisation policy on the level of a few basic infrastructural elements.

Marcel Reynders

    During the amalgamation period, important changes occurred in landuse planning primarily under the impetus of regional formation. The position of the municipalities has not been strengthened. In the historical monument policy, the gap between the national and the municipal level is particularly large. This is also the case for housing policy, but the gap is generally not felt to be encumbering by the municipal authorities. After the amalgamation and the «politisation» of the municipal council parties, most of the municipal administrators have, in a very pragmatic way, received a direct line to the national land-use planning via party clientism. This appears to be much more efficient than the formal procedures of the urban construction law, the historica monument law, and other provisions. However, this does have the consequence that the people of the amalgamated municipalities feel little involvement in the land-usepolicy. Some municipalities have tried to break through on this by the launching of a structure plan. The political orientations of the designers and other land-use planning experts and the sometimes anti-political attitude of large groups of the population are not alien to the aforementioned pragmatism. All this, however, complicates the impact on land-use organisation by the local communities, which are still administratively powerful after the amalgamation.

Evert Lagrou

    Since the mid-sixties an important change in the attitude of local authorities towards cultural infrastructure such as meeting halls, public libraries, sporting accommodation, etc. can be noticed. Induced by the government many state-subsidized initiatives have been taken in this field, implicating an active role of public authorities and contrasting with the former merely supporting policy. However cultural policy also supposes citizen's participation. This involvement has been legally guaranteed: every ideological tendency in the population bas the right to participate in the management of public provisions in the cultural sector. Up to now the scale enlargement of the municipalities had no directimpact on the expansion of the cultural infrastructure. Many options were decided before the mergers and since 1977 the crisis in public finance lead to other priorities. The participatory structures have been reorganized on the level of the new municipalities, thus creating a social distance to the grass roots.

Frank Delmartino

    The sealing up of the municipalities was intended to make it possible to deal with some existing problems more adequately. This required more dedication, deeper understanding, a readiness to listen, and preliminary research on the part of the managers. In addition, the sealing up could also lead to centralisation of facilities. The resulting hierarchy and bureaucracy could prevent flexible management, however as the citizens do not want to be overlooked. they have reacted to the possible negative aspects of the consolidation. The global impression is that the consolidation has been good for the small municipalities. The large municipalities, certainly those of more than 50,000 inhabitants, did not have to be involved, although they were, and the result has been that the understanding of the problems and the decision-making processes have been more complicated.

Anne-Marie Lambrecht

    An adaptation of the Municipal Law to the present-day requirements of modern management and the discharge of the central government of its financial duties vis-à-vis the municipalities are preliminary conditions for the Flemish Community to reinforce municipal autonomy. This reinforcement will go together with a granting of greater financial responsibility to the municipality. The resolution of the financial situation of the municipalities is a pressing issue for the Flemish Executive Body. In addition to the need for a new method of distributing the Municipal Fund correctly over each region, the redress of the budgetary balance, leaving the municipal autonomy unaffected, is of primary importance.

Johan Delanghe

J. Troosters

    This brief study is to examine whether some legal questions do influence the administrative control in general and more particularly the administrative control of merged municipalities. First are analysed the propositions aiming the administrative control in the new local government act as proposed by the Association of Belgian Towns and Villages. It says that administrative control must not be excessivily hindering. It would rather change the control phylosophy and procedures in order to relieve the administrative control. The two important State Reform Acts of 8 and 9 august 1980 present in fact major institutional changes concerning the administrative control. The Flemish and the Walloon regions obtain the competence to organise the procedures and to exercise the administrative control with regard to provinces, towns, villages and agglomerations. After revision of article 108 of the Constitution in 1980opportunity-control of administrative acts is maintained and the exercise of the autonomy of action must take place in harmony with the jurisprudence of the «Council of State». Finally, comparison between theFrench Act of March 2nd, 1982 about decentralisation of administrative control in France and the opportunity-control in Belgium is made.

William Lambrechts

    The increase in scale of the municipalities has not affected the necessity for intermunicipal cooperation. The activities to be carried out by the intermunicipal organisations and the instruments necessary for them required intermunicipal cooperation both before and after the amalgamation operation. The reasons for the intermunicipal cooperation also remained unchanged after the amalgamation. The amalgamation of the municipalities had no effect on the entrance of municipalities into or their withdrawal from intermunicipal organisations. Moreover, the number and the content of the activities of these intermunicipal organisations did not change fundamentally. Insofar as a change in the activities did occur, it even involved an extension of them. The involvement of the municipalities in the general and even daily policy of the intermunicipal organisations has increased. The structure of the amalgamated municipality can have changed its relationship to the particular intermunicipal organisations. The reorganisation and expansion of the personnel by the amalgamation operation has improved the administrative processing of the various dossiers between the municipalities and the intercommunal organisations.

Guido Obbels

Access_open De evaluatie van de fusie in Gent

Authors Placide De Paepe

    The fear that the border municipalities would be overwhelmed by the larger entity of the central city of Ghent was countered by a number of accompanying measures such as the stimulation of organised activities, the offering of opportunities for participation, and the provision of decentralised services. The equitable representation of the sub-municipalities in the new administrative organs and the opportunities for contact that derived therefrom reassured the residents of the outskirts. The effortwas made with the reorganisation of the municipal apparatus to achieve a balance between external decentralisation and internal centralisation. In spite of an increasingly difficult financial situation, Ghent has succeeded 'up till now in maintaining a balanced budget. The amalgamation certainly had a negative impact in this regard, probably primarily because of the increased personnel costs. The amalgamation of the Ghent agglomeration can, however, be considered a success. The preparatory time for such a profound reorganisation was too brief, however. An adequate administrative model, rationalisation of the financial situation, application of the municipal law, and implementation of modern working methods are factors that loom large for the optimisation of the developmental chances of an amalgamated large city.

Placide De Paepe

Access_open L'expérience de Liège

Authors Jean-Pierre Digneffe

    The consolidation in Liège has gone well. All the groups of the municipal council were in agreement about this in December 1977. The services have been maintained and social activities have been developed and generalized for the benefit of the population. The officials of the amalgamated municipalities were able to find posts corresponding to their wishes. The complexity of the structure, however, remains a handicap. Because of the technocratic conception and an egalitarian administration, the consolidation has put some restrictions on the newly formed entities. The spontaneous and natural human and social relations in the farmer small and medium-sized entities had to be reconstructed by expensive means. But the new Liège exists, and it has the wilt to survive and to overcome its financial difficulties. It has engaged itself in the reconstruction of its administration with the intention of defending and developing itsrole as regional capital.

Jean-Pierre Digneffe

Access_open La fusion à Charleroi

Authors Emile Henry

    In the amalgamation of the agglomeration of Charleroi the attempt was made to achieve political representation of each sub-municipality both in the municipal council and on the municipal executive board. As regards service provision, the principle of decentralisation was honoured in order not to lose contact with the people. Administrative bodies to be newly established were necessarily decentralised because of infrastructural problems, which complicate the concentration. As far as personnel matters are concerned, the old staff was kept in its familiar places. The administrative task expansion required more qualified personnel, a problem that was resolved to a large part by training of the existing personnel.Organisationally, the amalgamation required an expansion and implementation of a number of facilities to assure communication. Financially, the amalgamation was doomed to fail because of the non-adjustment of the Municipal Fund, the bad economic situation of the region, and the failure of the national authorities to live up to the obligations they had agreed upon.

Emile Henry

Access_open Een regionale stad met langere fusie-ervaring


Authors Raymond Reynaert

    The city of Bruges went through an amalgamation operation already in 1971. The number of personnel increased considerably, though there was no question of a surplus. This increase is only partially to be ascribed to the amalgamation. The integration of the personnel from the formel municipalities proceeded quite well, although the coordination had to be improved on some points. On the political level, all of the former municipalities are represented with a predominance of the outskirts. For the provision of services, a decentralised approach was chosen. Except for centralisation of the Registry for Births, Deaths, and Marriages, the ordinary administrative services were decentralised to the former municipal halls. The financial capacity increased steadily, which was necessary to cover the greater financial needs, which can be reduced to the supplementary expenses resulting from the amalgamation, which brought with it an expansion of the task package. On the level of the input and participation facilities, functional and territorial advisory councils were created, which function quite satisfactorily. Neighbourhood meetings are organised on the occasion of large projects. Globally, the Bruges amalgamation succeeded. A more flexible supervisory authority would be able to give more efficiency and effectiveness to the policy.

Raymond Reynaert

    The establishment of cooperative links on a voluntary basis did not seem to be adequate for the administration in large urban agglomerations. These links are often lacking in actual administrative power, and they can be reduced to the sum of the municipal interests. Large-scale amalgamation of municipalities does not seem to be a solution when one considers the developments and prevailing attitudes in a few Western European countries. Because of the lack of an integral framework, legally based agglomeration administrations have been created in a number of these countries. They are extra, often complicating administrative levels. The existing administrative levels can often suffice with a balanced redistribution of administrative tasks. Territorial adjustments must be based primarily on functional considerations, but must also be translated in terms of the other administrative levels. A functional redistribution of tasks is, therefore, a condition for a specific solution of the total administrative problem.

Johannes B.A. Van Laarhoven

Access_open De fusie-ervaringen in een kleinstedelijk centrum


Authors Jaak Gabriëls

    The amalgamation in the small urban centre, for which Bree is chosen as an example, may be considered to have been a success partially because a number of general principles with respect to the amalgamation operation were respected. The socio-cultural differences existing between the submunicipalities could be bridged, which was not the case with other amalgamations. The municipal policy rests to a large extent on the concept of decentralisation and the participation of the citizen. Decentralisation was made concrete both with regard to the provision of services and with regard to the investments in the various centres. The participation of the citizen was implemented by hearings held systematically in the residential areas. The amount of personnel was reduced slightly in spite of the increased municipal tasks. This reduction was made possible by greater efficiency in the use of personnel and by better equipment. Financially, the municipality is having no difficulties, the budget is balanced, and theaccounts show a surplus.

Jaak Gabriëls

Access_open Profiel van een kleine fusiegemeente

Authors Eddy Baldewijns

    While the population expected a quantitative improvement in municipal management, there was, from the outset, a fear of greater centralisation. The policy makers aften did not seem up to their tasks through the lack of experience and because of favouritism. This often led to dissension between the sub-municipalities. Centralisation did not improve the services, unless the council produced the necessary creativity. Difficult problems in the amalgamation concerned the shifting of the financial repercussions ofthe amalgamation onto the population, the further construction of the road system and the infrastructure policy, the restructuring of education, the giving of new stimuli to the social policy, and the involvement of the organisational life in policy formation. The balance can turn positive if the municipal administrations are better assisted, if the demographic decline is halted, if more financial support appears, if the participation of the population is increased, and if more pluralism is achieved in socio-cultural and educational matters.

Eddy Baldewijns

Access_open Veranderingen in de gemeentelijke organisatie en beleidsvoering

Een eerste evaluatie vijf jaar na de samenvoegingen

Authors Rudolf Maes

    In this synthesis report of the congress that was sponsored by the Politologisch Instituut on the evaluation of the amalgamations of the municipalities, the changes are further investigated that were the consequences of this reform in the areas of municipal organisation and policy implementation. The overall impression that one can receive from the evaluation conducted up tilt now allows one to point to several favourable developments ihat relate, for example, to the content improvement of policy formation and to a better support of it by a quantitatively and, apparently, also a qualitatively better constructed official apparatus. In most of the new municipalities, there are more perspectives available for policy implementation than was previously the case. Nevertheless, the weak points of the transition from the small to the large-scale administration must also be stressed. These are strongly related to the necessity of continuing to assure the open and democratie content of the policy implementation in a context in which the newly created distances between the administration and the citizens, the danger of bureaucratisation, and the tensions coupled with the integration demand a new approach and new insights.

Rudolf Maes

Access_open La fusion des communes bruxelloises

Authors Maurice-Pierre Herremans

    The idea of amalgamation for the Brussels municipalities is already an old one. In addition to the numerous parliamentary attempts to return to the situation of before 1795, when eight Brussels municipalities formed an administrative unit, there were also the Holvoet Report of 1936 and the establishment of the State Commissariat for the Large Agglomerations during the Second World War. In 1942, «Gross Brüssel» was created, but it was dissolved after the liberation. Except for the proposals of the Union of Cities, things remained rather quiet until the first amalgamation operation of 1971. Brussels was not involved in these amalgamation operations primarily because of the complexity of the Brussels problem over which the Flemish and the French speaking groups could not come to an agreement. The recent proposals can be placed into three categories: a complete amalgamation of the 19 municipalities into one entity, a partial amalgamation of 3 to 10 entities, the status quo. Since the amalgamation means an increase in the municipal expenses because of equalisation of the services in the sub-municipalities at a higher level, integral amalgamation of the present 19 municipalities offers no solution for the financial difficulties besetting these municipalities. In addition,this integral amalgamation solution generales negative reactions from the people of Brussel, who see in it a demand of the Flemish Movement.

Maurice-Pierre Herremans