Jan Vapaavuori (NCP), the Mayor of Helsinki, has continued his criticism of the regional government reform prepared by the government of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä (Centre).
Jan Vapaavuori (NCP), the Mayor of Helsinki, has continued his criticism of the regional government reform prepared by the government of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä (Centre).


The City of Helsinki has published a pamphlet with contributions from 28 leading urban researchers in a bid to urge the government to pay more attention to the special characteristics of cities in drafting its urban policy.

The pamphlet represents a continuation of a rebellion against the regional government reform personified by Jan Vapaavuori (NCP), the Mayor of Helsinki.

Vapaavuori on Wednesday tweeted that the urban researchers delivered “a rather devastating” response to the government. He has previously accused the government of ignoring cities entirely in drafting what will be the largest administrative reform ever in Finland, the social, health care and regional government reform.

He has also predicted that the regional government reform will collapse during the course of this spring.

“Urban policy making has been relatively invisible in our country in recent years and cities have had a regrettably small role in the national context,” he lamented in the foreword of the pamphlet titled The Era of Cities.

His assessment that urban policy has been largely overlooked by recent governments is echoed by many of the researchers contributing to the pamphlet.

Janne Antikainen, a design director at MDI, points out that urban policy all but disappeared from the political debate roughly a decade ago following the collapse of a system founded on strong, city-based municipalities. The debate, he adds, has been re-kindled this winter by the consortium formed by the 21 largest cities in Finland, the so-called C21.

“Now, the question comes down to the relationship and linkage between cities and counties in regards to efforts to promote growth and development. No one can yet tell how the overlap between cities and counties will become an interface,” he reminds.

MDI is a consultancy specialising in regional development.

Ilpo Laitinen and Jari Stenvall from the University of Tampere, in turn, reminded that cities and urban development are crucial for the success of Finland.

“At worst, the social, health care and regional government reform can significantly deteriorate the ability of cities to develop their operations rapidly and thoroughly. The key question is will cities be able to solve issues that are important for people and development as the resources are scattered between a growing number of operators,” they say.

“If the reform is carried out, will the counties even be willing to solve problems from a city-based standpoint?”

Sampo Ruoppila, a research director at the University of Turku, also warned that the regional government reform could squander the resources of cities.

“The regional government reform […] under consideration, which perceives all municipalities, including large, vital cities, as municipalities that are in crisis and struggling with population loss, is detrimental for urban policy,” he slams.

The reform, he adds, utterly fails to take into consideration the resources, capabilities and special challenges of growing cities.

“In the Nordics, the special position of large cities has been taken into account in municipal reforms. Relevance has been their guiding principle for distributing responsibilities for certain public services. Tasks and personnel have also been moved down in the regional hierarchy, towards municipalities. The Finnish government is swimming against the current,” says Ruoppila.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi