SF does about-face on plan to cut number of mayors

Fears of all-powerful city bosses lead party leaders to backtrack

The City of Copenhagen has seven different mayors.

Along with Mayor Frank Jensen, there are individual deputy mayors that oversee, among other things: the city’s culture and leisure, health and wellness, and employment and integration. Denmark’s three other largest cities – Aalborg, Aarhus and Odense – all have similar arrangements.

Recently, the S-R-SF government seemed to be united around the idea of cutting the extra deputy mayors and consolidating power in each of the four cities under a single mayor in the same way as governance is done in smaller towns around the country. The government said that the reforms would eliminate costly duplication of efforts and save tax payers hundreds of millions of kroner. Now, however, it seems that the Socialistisk Folkeparti (SF) wants to scuttle the plan. Party members believe that the consolidating of power will place too much power in the hands of a single person.

“There are things that we can discuss combining under single management, like IT and human resources,” SF spokesperson Lisbeth Bech Poulsen told Politiken newspaper. “But it essential that we continue to have direct access to any political or economic analysis, so SF opposes the idea.”

Frank Jensen’s colleague in Copenhagen, the deputy mayor for heath and wellness Ninna Thomsen (SF) is afraid that if the proposal is passed, it would effectively turn the the mayor of Copenhagen into the “king of the city".

“I manage my own shop,” Thomsen told Politiken. “I have nearly 50 nursing homes and 8,000 employees to handle. It is not a walk in the park.”

Thomsen said that she needed to remain in a position to make decisions and engage in honest dialogue.

SF’s about-face on the unification plan was met with surprise and a bit of scorn from its ruling partners.

“I hope our good economic minister, Margrethe Vestager (Radikale), knocks some sense into SF," Copenhagen city councillor Ikram Sarwar (Socialdemokraterne) told Politiken. “It may be that they lose their little stool in City Hall, but this is about Copenhagen getting better and more transparent government.”

Radikale spokesperson Liv Holm Andersen told Politiken that the reforms are necessary to increase government efficiency.

“I simply cannot understand why SF doesn’t think that we should save hundreds of millions of kroner,” said Andersen.

Although both Venstre and Konservative said in 2010 that they would like to see changes in the governing structure in Denmark's four major cities, and even made the changes part of their government's platform, both parties now say they do not support the currents government's efforts.

"We investigated it during the previous government and came to the conclusion that there are just too many problems with the idea," Konservative spokesperson Brian Mikkelsen told Politiken.

The mayor of one of the cities that would be affected, Henning Jensen (Socialdemokraterne) of Aalborg, has no love for the proposed reforms.

“I have zero sympathy for Copenhagen,” Jensen said to Politiken. “They are the country’s wealthiest city, so why should their problems affect the rest of us? Let local governments continue to have the freedom they have now.”

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