Cash strapped councils threaten strike action in the autumn

NRC, struggling

Council wardens at an Amsterdam market. Photo: DutchNews.nl

Cash strapped local councils are threatening to strike if the government does not come up with at least €1.5bn on top of the current €30bn budget they get to provide services.

A motion to strike was passed by a majority at a meeting of the local authorities association VNG last week. This means services like youth care, care for the disabled and integration courses for immigrants will suffer, the councils warned.

The threat to strike ‘signals a tough new phase’ in the decade of tension between local and national authorities, the NRC said.

Local councils have been taking over tasks which were formerly the responsibility of the government in a decentralisation drive but their budgets have not been increased accordingly.

The coronavirus crisis has made things worse, they say, and impending measures to combat climate change will deplete the budget even more.

Some 120 local councils were unable to present a balanced budget for this year despite upping local taxes and cutting back on services.

Integration

If the money is not forthcoming by the autumn, councils say they will no longer accept new tasks – such as implementing the new integration courses.

‘The motion is strongly worded but the experiences over the years show that we need to alert the government to the financial hardship it has imposed on local councils,’ Zoetermeer executive Marc Rosier (VVD) told the paper.

Youth care services alone have been struggling with an annual shortfall of €2bn. ‘We are seeing dramatic situations locally but those never make headlines,’ councillor Marijke van der Meer of local group Zó! Zoetermeer said.

The government pledged an extra €1.3bn for local councils in May but as a one off, not enough to cover the structural shortfalls they have to deal with. Strike action is a final resort, the councils said.

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