Henna Virkkunen, the Minister of Public Administration and Local Government, urges the Government to carry out the mooted municipal reform. The Government is to present its criteria for forced municipal consolidations next week.

THE DETAILS on the bill for forced municipal consolidations revealed yesterday by Henna Virkkunen (NCP), the Minister of Public Administration and Local Government, have sparked a heated response from several members of the opposition. On Friday, the minister revealed that an estimated 25 municipalities surrounding regional hubs may be forced to consolidate.

Kimmo Tiilikainen, the chairman of the Centre's parliamentary group, is puzzled by Virkkunen's pursuit of forced consolidations.

“With such measures, the Government will only turn municipalities against each other and prolong the disarray in the municipal sector,” he viewed in an interview with YLE.

Markus Mustajärvi, a former member of the Left Alliance's parliamentary group, reminded that in the debates leading up to the most recent parliamentary elections party chairs categorically rejected forced consolidations. Yet, a preliminary list of forced consolidations was drawn up by the Government some time ago.

In Saturday's edition of Helsingin Sanomat, Virkkunen assured that the Government will publish its criteria for forced consolidations next week. Despite initially affirming that no municipalities – with the exception of a few crisis-stricken localities – would be forced to consolidate, the Government announced in August that it will assume further control over consolidations in the capital region.

“This is not an attempt to automatise consolidations, but it's important to reserve power for the Government in case certain regions are unable to make decisions,” Virkkunen explained to the daily.

According to her, forced consolidations could be resorted to when four of the five criteria determined by the Government are met or when the population centre of a locality extends beyond municipal borders.

If the criteria are met but the councils of the municipalities concerned reject the proposed consolidation, the matter could be resolved in a local referendum, the minister envisions.

Timo Toropainen, Heli Suominen – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
© Helsingin Sanomat
Photo: Rio Gandara / HS