Brussels (Brussels Morning)“Municipality can be merged while retaining individuality at neighbourhood level”, this is what Els Rochette said in the Interior Committee when discussing several studies by Minister Bernard Clerfayt on the financial situation of local authorities in the Brussels Region.
This shows, what has been known for some time, that there are large differences in the financial capacity of the nineteen municipalities. A small, poor municipality like Sint-Joost-ten-Node can spend 2,939 euros per inhabitant. For the city of Brussels, it’s 3,591 euros. Municipalities such as Auderghem and Ganshoren have to make do with 1,415 and 1,226 euros respectively in income that they can spend each year on the services of their residents. “That’s a three-fold difference,” Clerfayt said as per the report by BRUZZ.
The general grant from the Brussels Region should smooth out the large differences between the municipalities, in order to achieve a kind of solidarity, but the differences remain too large, according to Clerfayt. He wants to review the financing mechanism during this legislature so that greater equality is achieved. “It’s a question of cohesion and fairness,” said Clerfayt.
Member of Parliament Els Rochette (One.brussels-Vooruit) is not against such a revision per se, but she thinks that Clerfayt is wrong about debate.
“It should be about the merger of the municipalities. This immediately solves the lack of solidarity between the municipalities,” she says. “We, therefore, propose that Clerfayt commission a study that looks at how much such a fusion yields. Both through efficiency gains and through fairer solidarity.”
Rochette’s party is currently looking at what such a merger could look like. “We’re looking at how other cities are doing. We also know that the word ‘fusion’ is often perceived negatively by French speakers, but we think we can demonstrate that one Brussels region will not provide uniformity or a lack of proximity. We think that there will still be individuality. It may not be at the municipal level, but rather at the district level. This is also more in line with the geographical reality. The proximity of the services can then be guaranteed at the neighborhood level.”
The debate in the Home Affairs Committee can be seen as a foretaste of the States-General that should be held this year about the division of competencies between the municipality and the region. According to the coalition agreement, the current institutional framework must be evaluated and it must be possible to talk about the division of competencies ‘without any taboo’.
“We just don’t have the impression that Clerfayt wants to make progress with this,” says Rochette. “A plan of action would now be proposed in January, but there are still many questions about it.” This raises the question of whether the French-speaking majority parties understand an intra-Brussels institutional reform in the same way as the Dutch-speaking ones.