Merging municipalities

Municipalities are taking on more and more responsibilities. This is partly because they are taking over some tasks from central government. Certain municipalities sometimes cannot cope. One solution to this problem is to merge municipalities. Merging municipalities creates larger ones with the capacity to handle all municipal tasks. 

The decision to merge

The government does not want to force municipalities to merge. In principle, it wants the municipalities themselves to take the initiative. In exceptional cases, the initiative will be taken at provincial level. This could happen if the municipality’s capacity to govern has been so weakened by administrative or financial problems that local tasks are not being carried out. This is laid down in the 2013 policy framework on municipal boundary reform. The Boundary Reform (General Regulations) Act sets out rules for merging municipalities.

Assessment criteria for mergers

The policy framework on municipal boundary reform sets out criteria that the government uses to assess municipal and provincial merger proposals. Merging municipalities is not an exact science, however. And it is not possible to develop a checklist that leads to a clear outcome each time. Each case is assessed on the basis of local and regional circumstances, developments and context. The government has to decide whether merging will strengthen administrative capacity and benefit the wider region.
The government makes its assessment on the basis of the following 5 criteria:

  • public support;
  • internal coherence (do the towns/villages fit together?);
  • administrative capacity;
  • balance in the region;
  • sustainability.

Input from residents

Local people are given the opportunity to say what they think about plans to merge their municipality. The plans are available to the public and anyone can inform the municipal authorities of their views. The municipality can also organise meetings or conduct a survey on the proposal. Each resident can inform the municipal authorities of their views on the draft plan up to 8 weeks after it has been made public. The municipality must announce when the document will be available for inspection at the town hall.

Impact assessment

Municipalities can have a study done beforehand to assess the potential financial consequences of merging. This is known as a municipal merger impact assessment. It can be carried out by the province in cooperation with the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. Any of the affected municipalities may submit a request. The ministry will make the data file for the assessment available and will ensure it is kept up to date. The province will carry out the assessment together with the affected municipalities.