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The Helsinki skyline as viewed across Teollisuuskatu on 8 September, 2017.
The Helsinki skyline as viewed across Teollisuuskatu on 8 September, 2017.

 

Finland’s largest cities are set to join forces to protect their interests in the face of the social, health care and regional government reform pursued by the government of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä (Centre).

The leaders of the six largest cities have previously expressed their reservations especially about the regional government reform, arguing that the reform fails to take into account the role of urban areas as drivers of growth and the global megatrend of urbanisation, Lauri Lyly (SDP), the Mayor of Tampere, reminds in an interview with Uusi Suomi.

“We want to do our part and see if there’s anything else that could be done besides what’s being planned or if something could be done differently,” he says.

Six largest cities make up almost a third of population: 

  • Finland’s 21 largest cities are home to 52% (2.9m) of the country’s population.
  • The six largest cities are home to roughly 1.75 million people or 31% of the population.
  • Finland had a total population of 5,508,714 at the end of July, according to preliminary data released by Statistics Finland.

Jan Vapaavuori (NCP), the Mayor of Helsinki, revealed to Helsingin Sanomat on Thursday that the six largest cities are eager to increase their leverage and have invited the next 15 most populous cities to regularly discuss means to promote the interests of urban areas in Finland.

“There’s talk about the growing role of cities all around the world. It’s odd that in Finland cities don’t have a joint forum,” he stated to the newspaper, also revealing that the forum has been named as C21.

“The current government doesn’t really understand where the world is headed,” he slammed.

The Finnish government has agreed to transfer a wide variety of services onto the shoulders of the 18 autonomous counties that are to be established as part of the regional government reform on 1 January, 2020. The establishment of a stronger system of regional governance has been a key objective for the Centre Party.

Minister of Agriculture and the Environment Kimmo Tiilikainen (Centre), for example, has stated that he does not want to be part of promoting urbanisation, highlights Helsingin Sanomat.

The first regional elections are currently scheduled for October, 2018.

Finland’s six largest cities – Helsinki, Espoo, Tampere, Vantaa, Oulu and Turku – in June issued a letter urging the government to re-consider the social, health care and regional government reform. Counties, they argued, should only be made responsible for organising social and health care services but not, for example, employment and business development services.

“The cities view that autonomous regional governments are justified only to implement the social and health care reform,” says Lyly.

The current reform bill, however, would make the counties responsible for organising most of the services currently provided by business development agencies, the Employment and Economic Development Offices (TE Offices), and the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centres).

Lyly believes the distribution of responsibilities between municipalities and counties should be reviewed carefully.

“Issues related to education, growth and industrial policy […] should fall within the responsibilities of municipalities,” he argues. “We’re prepared to have the counties organise social and health care services, but we should also think about what other [responsibilities] they should have, what cities and municipalities can’t perform.”

He reminds that urbanisation is a very natural trend, as people want to live near jobs and services. “This is a contemporary trend. This is the cause of urbanisation also in Finland.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Martti Kainulainen – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi

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