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Regional councils strongly committed to administrative development

Finland’s ability to reform its administration is currently under scrutiny. Will we be able to adapt our administrative and service system to people’s needs? Will we be able to evaluate alternative models with an open mind? Regional mayors collaborated to find the answers, and their work resulted in the discussion paper Democracy revisited – Finland’s regions in 2020.

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Finland’s ability to reform its administration is currently under scrutiny. Will we be able to adapt our administrative and service system to people’s needs? Will we be able to evaluate alternative models with an open mind? Regional mayors collaborated to find the answers, and their work resulted in the discussion paper Democracy revisited – Finland’s regions in 2020.

Population ageing and the sustainability gap in public finances call for major structural reforms in local and regional administration. Regional mayors outlined the following four scenarios for the reform:

  1. Finland’s regions will develop into new types of service regions that comprise the present municipal federations and the governmental Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, bringing them under democratic supervision.
  2. Municipalities will be considerably larger than they are today, but they will be able to provide most of the required services. Under democratic supervision, the consolidated regions will be responsible for regional development as well as the most demanding forms of specialised health care and education in universities of applied sciences.
  3. The large municipalities will be supervised by a strong national government. The role of regional councils will mainly be limited to preserving local culture.
  4. Structural reforms will not materialise. Public finances will be in crisis, and municipalities and regions will be neglected.

If regions and municipalities are allowed to reform their operations and structures on the basis of their own needs, regions can develop into democratic service regions and influential developers. If, however, the government fails to see the opportunities in regional administration, regional services will remain outside of democratic supervision.

“The future of Finland’s regions needs to be discussed. Much of their power has already been transferred to various municipal cooperation bodies. Will Finland be the only European country where regional administration has no direct authorisation from the people?” asks regional mayor Asko Peltola from the Regional Council of Southern Ostrobothnia, who serves as the chairman for regional mayors for 2011.

“In its country-specific public governance review last year, the OECD encouraged Finland to clarify the tasks and responsibilities of regional councils as part of the administration at the intermediate level. The OECD also noted the lack of a jointly created vision for different levels of administration. These perspectives are important, which is why we wanted to give regional mayors an opportunity to envisage the future position and tasks of Finland’s regions in public administration,” says Juha Kostiainen, Director of Sitra’s Public Leadership and Management Programme.

Finland’s new Government Programme emphasises the role of strong municipalities that are larger than the present ones. The role of regional councils also needs to be discussed as part of the transition. The regional mayors’ future visions are a contribution to this discussion.

Further information

Juha Kostiainen, Director, Public Leadership and Management Programme, SitraTel. +358 400 721 475, firstname.lastname@sitra.fi

Asko Peltola, Regional Council of Southern Ostrobothnia, chairman for regional mayors for 2011Tel. +358 400 590 123, firstname.lastname@etela-pohjanmaa.fi

Publication information

Eeva-Liisa Hynynen (ed.)
Democracy revisited – Finland’s regions in 2020
Regional mayors’ discussion paper
Sitra Reports 59, Helsinki 2011, Sitra ISBN 978-951-563-784-0 (http://www.sitra.fi)
ISBN 1796-7112 (http://www.sitra.fi)

The publication is available for download (PDF, in Finnish) »

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