Editorial | Right place, wrong time for single mayor proposal

March 29th, 2012

This article is more than 11 years old.

With a 2011 budget surplus of nearly a billion kroner you’d be hard pressed to call Copenhagen poorly managed, which is why we’re scratching our head about the timing of the mayor’s call to reform the City Council in the name of efficiency.

Opponents of the mayor’s call to change the current system, which features seven administrations, each headed by an appointed deputy mayor, and working independently of the mayor, need only point to the 872 million kroner surplus to refute claims that the single-mayor system is more efficient.


And it’s not as if Jensen can complain about a lack of political power. His predecessors have shown it’s more than possible to push through controversial ordinances, including a maligned waterfront redevelopment in the 1990s that, in the end, wound up bailing the city out of bankruptcy.


But while Jensen’s timing may be terrible, his message is spot on. The city did indeed run a surplus in 2011, but that one-time windfall would be equalised every sixth year, if his calculation that 150 million kroner could be saved through reduced administration is correct. There is much to indicate that it could: in the area of communications, press and information alone, the city’s seven administrations spend 51 million kroner annually and employ 104, according to 2010 figures.


And while the current proportionally representative system ensures that the city’s administration reflects the make-up of the council, the single-mayor system doesn’t rule out opposing parties gaining influence. In many of the 94 other councils with single-mayor systems, majorities are formed made up of parties that, at the national level at least, are sworn enemies.


Furthermore, previous deputy mayors have expressed their misgivings about having to work together with political opponents. Past deputy mayors have pointed out that they often needed to spend time decoding what the true intentions of a fellow deputy mayor’s actions were.


Vested interests aside, it’s understandable that city councillors are leery about a single political official suddenly increasing the size of his staff from 1,500, as is the case right now, to include all of the city’s 40,000 employees. But, on the other hand, it’s unfathomable that any responsible politician could argue against a measure that could reduce the overall city budget without reducing service levels.


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