Vedum sends clear message: “Initiate the dissolution of forcibly merged municipalities”

Trygve Slagsvold VedumPhoto: Ole Berg-Rusten / NTB

Minister of Finance Trygve Slagsvold Vedum (SP) has promised financial security to forcibly merged municipalities that want to dissolve. Now he is asking the municipal councils to start the work.

“The municipalities that people want to dissolve must now end the debate and get started,” Vedum told NTB.

The government has promised to dissolve forcibly merged municipalities and counties that adopt such a decision by July 1 next year. Thus, the municipal councils and county councils must decide within eight months.  

Troms og Finnmark has already decided to disolve. The county received the green light from the government for the dissolution on Friday. Vedum has now addressed other municipalities that want the same:

“Now we say… that if you want to dissolve, then the government will help. And we will change the revenue system so that municipalities are not forced into a situation they do not really want,” Vedum added.

Removal of financial penalties

The Solberg government introduced a system that caused municipalities defined as “voluntarily small” to lose money. The new government has stated in the Hurdal platform that they want to change that.

“Municipalities that have felt the pressure to merge will now experience that we remove the financial penalty that the previous government imposed,” Vedum said.

When asked whether this will be in the state budget for next year, Vedum replied:

“We are starting (the work) now. The direction is clear, so the municipalities will notice that they get better finances. But not all the changes will come overnight,” he noted, pointing out that this government only has a few weeks to change the budget for next year.

Benefits smaller municipalities

He did not clearly answer whether the government would also compensate the municipalities for the direct costs of the process of dissolving.

“We will at least help with that, and then we will ensure secure further financing.” 

Vedum pointed out that the changes they want to make will also help municipalities that did not merge.

“There are many small and medium-sized municipalities that had poorer finances after the municipal reform because the Conservatives had such enormous faith that large municipalities would lead to good results. Now it is the opposite.”

Expecting debates

A question that has been raised is what will happen if the citizens of one of the old forcibly merged municipalities want to dissolve while the political majority in the new large municipality is against it.

“I think that most people who have such local debates do not want to fight their neighbors and that they would rather want to find a good tone and listen to the local will of the people,” Vedum said.

Many former small municipalities that want to separate could be overrun in the new municipal council.

“We will have to take a position on it if it happens. But the government’s attitude is that we should move away from the time when the local population was not listened to in such cases,” Vedum concluded.

Source: © NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayNews

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