XIII. Good governance

A strong, service-oriented government requires a clear demarcation of tasks and responsibilities within and between its different tiers. Transferring a large number of tasks from central government to municipalities will enable more customised services and will enhance citizens’ involvement. Municipalities are better placed to coordinate the performance of their tasks, thus achieving more with less money. To this end, central government will offer them ample freedom in the relevant policy areas.

A high degree of decentralisation of tasks and powers requires local and regional authorities to be organised on a suitable scale. In the long term, we envisage a division of the Netherlands into five regions with strictly limited powers, and municipalities with a minimum of 100,000 inhabitants. The minimum number of inhabitants could be adjusted to reflect the different population densities of different parts of the country. The water authorities will be merged into the regions. We seek to realise this long-term prospect in collaboration with the other public authorities, and will encourage developments in the desired direction.

In its dealings with other public authorities, central government will gear its activities (and will sometimes refrain from activities) with this goal in mind. This will have consequences for the way consultations, decentralisation and funding arrangements are organised. Decentralisation will in principle apply to municipalities with 100,000 or more inhabitants. Municipalities should take advantage of opportunities to involve district, neighbourhood and village residents in matters that affect them.

•    The provinces North Holland, Utrecht and Flevoland will be merged, with a decision to be taken later on the position of the Northeast Polder.
•    We will hold discussions with the other provinces on initiatives aimed at scaling up provinces.
•    We will opt for strictly limited powers for the provinces, encompassing only tasks in the areas of spatial planning, traffic and transport, nature conservation and regional economic policy.
•    Water authority elections will be held on the same day as Provincial Council elections. We will work towards merging water authorities into 10-12 bodies. References to water authorities will be removed from the constitution.
•    A bill will be introduced to abolish the Joint Arrangements Act-plus partnerships (WGR+).
•    We will encourage provinces to hold discussions with municipalities on initiatives aimed at scaling up municipalities.
•    The bill to reduce by 25% the number of political officeholders will be amended. The number of municipal council members will be reduced to the number there were before the introduction of dualism at municipal level. We welcome the House of Representatives’ initiative on this point. We also welcome its initiative to remove from the constitution references to the appointment of mayors and of Queen’s Commissioners. The bill will still provide for a 25% reduction in the number of political officeholders at provincial level.
•    The VAT Compensation Fund will be abolished. An evaluation of the fund has shown that it did not attain its objective of raising efficiency through outsourcing.
•    From 2013 local and regional authorities will be required to bank with the treasury. This will not only help lower the Netherlands’ debt, but will also eliminate the risks of local and regional authority investing.
•    Voting from abroad will be made easier.
•    The Political Parties (Financing) Act will be extended to cover local parties.
•    The financial supervision of countries of the Kingdom under the Financial Supervision (Curaçao and St Maarten) Act will be continued. Fundamental human rights and freedoms, legal certainty and sound governance and financial management will remain the basic principles of Kingdom relations. The distinctive position of Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba as parts of the Netherlands will be respected.

Central government will work more inexpensively, flexibly and efficiently, reducing excessive bureaucracy and layers of government and the regulatory burden. This should help improve service provision to the public and the business community. Policy and its implementation will be simplified, supervisory tasks and advisory bodies will be combined, tasks will be eliminated or delegated to local authorities, and deregulation will be pursued energetically. This will lead to lower compliance costs. In view of its great importance and complexity, this task will be the responsibility of a new Minister for Housing and the Central Government Sector at the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. This minister will have the power to take measures in another minister’s remit.

•    In addition to the savings realised already, another €900 million in spending cuts will be made to the civil service in 2017 (€1.1 billion in structural cuts). The cuts will focus on government real estate and buildings, records databases and information-sharing, and the operational management of autonomous administrative authorities (ZBOs) and similar bodies. Implementation of the Compact Civil Service programme will be completed. All ministries and ZBOs will participate in central government-wide shared services related to operational management and other areas.
•    Strategic personnel policy will focus on continually improving quality, making public sector organisations more flexible and decreasing the number of coordination layers.
•    The government will endeavour to increase the number of women in more senior (management) positions in central government, both in positions at the entry level of the Senior Civil Service (ABD) and in other positions. By 2017 women will make up at least 30% of the ABD.
•    We will investigate taking an approach to conditions of employment that creates scope for using resources currently spent on fringe benefits (not including pensions) to increase salaries.
•    The law on termination of employment for public servants will be brought into line with that applicable to employees outside government. After consultation with the unions and employers’ organisations, fringe benefits for public servants will also be equalised with those in the private sector.
•    We will discuss with the employees’ organisations the possibility of opening up the lowest pay scale for public servants, to enable the hiring of employees in facilities departments if required.
•    Contrary to the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on the Legal Status of Political Officeholders (the Dijkstal Committee), the salaries of members of government will not be raised. In line with this definitive decision we will amend the Top Incomes (Standardisation) Bill on salaries in the public and semi-public sector, setting a standard of 100% of a minister’s salary instead of 130%. This will apply not only to top officials but to all employees. Exceptions may be made as necessary.
•    We will assess all processes within the civil service with a view to raising efficiency and reducing costs. After the review of the immigration system, which is currently in progress, there will be a review of the public safety and security system.
•    Besides assessing the operational management of ZBOs, we will also consider whether a ZBO is the appropriate organisation for each specific task, using the following guidelines:
-    The first question is whether a task should be outsourced or kept in the public domain.
-    Within the public domain, a task should be performed by an agency unless there is a specific reason why it should not be.
-    If use of a ZBO is necessary, this could be at board level only.
•    The marketing boards and industry boards will be abolished. Public tasks currently performed by public-law industrial regulatory bodies will be taken on by the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Businesses may choose to carry out other tasks such as publicity, promotion and lobbying themselves, for example through a trade association.