Revised Municipal map clubbed through Parliament, 74 fewer municipalities
The Government parties; the Conservatives and the Progress Party celebrates a great triumph when Parliament accepted the municipality reform. But the debate about the forced mergers will rage on.
After an eight-hour debate, voting was not concluded before 8 pm, Thursday evening. Only then it was clear that the Government prevailed in its wishes.
The Government’s one partner, KrF, said no to forced mergers, but the Liberals secured the majority for the biggest changes in the Norwegian municipal structure in sixty years.
– It has been difficult to land this process. Therefore I am relieved that a milestone has been reached, says Helge André Njåstad (FrP) to NTB. Njåstad is leader of the Municipal Committee in the Parliament
– The most important thing is that we have now lay down the foundations for a municipality structure in Norway that ensures good services for the citizens, he adds.
But in three cases, the voting was more even than the Government had wished for. With the lowest possible majority, 85 against 84 votes, Kristiansand, Søgne and Songdalen are to be merged. With the same margin it was decided to merge Mandal, Marnardal and Lindesnes and also Sogndal, Balestrand and Leikanger. In the other forced mergers, the votes was cast 86 against 83.
A sad day for local Government, says the Centre Party, which promises to fight against the forced merger if the red-green coalition gets a majority in the general elections later in the year. The Centre Party is set to lose political control in several municipalities after the mergers.
– This is dramatic. It is very telling that it eventually just stood on one vote. It could not have been a scarcer majority, says party leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum to NTB.
“The municipalities that are forced to get together will be notified that we can cancel it if they want to. In practice, everyone forced mergers will be cancelled, if the locals want it, he says.
Vedum believes that Labour made it clear that the wish of the locals will form the basis for the future.
The Municipal Committee voted for reducing the number of municipalities from 428 to 354. Even the red-green parties, among them Sp, supported the voluntary mergers.
All of the Parliament’s 169 representatives were present during the vote. The reason for this was that Sp would not accept so-called dividend in the matter. It was therefore necessary for all the other parties to have everybody present for the vote.
The debate was long and intense.
– The debate today has revealed that there is broad agreement on the voluntary mergers, but considerable disagreement about the use of force, Labour representative, Helga Pedersen, sums up
Region reform as well
Minister for the Interior, Jan Tore Sanner (Conservatives), explains the municipal reform as follows:
– There is a need for larger academic environments, to make small municipalities less dependent on individuals and moving resources from administration and management to service production.
He asked for alternatives from Labour, and got the following retort from Pedersen:
– We will also in the next period encourage voluntary mergers, for the small or large [municipalities] that needs it.
When the government presented its proposal for a reform of the municipality, there was a blueprint for 358 municipalities. The final outcome is even less, 354.
The Government also got support for their regional reform. The four coallition partners, the Conservatives, the Progress Party, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals, all agree that the 19 counties will be replaced by eleven regions.
© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today