Majority see structural reform as a failure

Poll results show a majority want to do away with regions, while report concludes that cutting the number of councils has hurt democracy

Only six and a half years after the five Danish regions were established, a majority of Danes want to see the structure disbanded.

The results come from a poll conducted by A&B Analyse for news site Altinget.dk. 

The survey asked 1,060 Danes if they thought “the regions should be preserved or abolished". Some 52 percent of respondents wanted to get rid of the regions and transfer the region's tasks to other parts of the public sector, 35 percent wanted to keep the regions, and 13 percent were undecided.

 

The previous Venstre led-government replaced 13 counties (amter) with the existing five regions in 2007. The reform coincided with cutting the number of councils in Denmark from 271 to 98. The primary responsibility for the regions is to operate public hospitals, but the poll shows that Danes generally want that area transferred to other administrations.

 

READ MORE: Rich pay the poor in council reform

 

Regions too complicated for citizens

The results mirror the distant relationship between Danes and the regions, the chairman of far-right opposition party Dansk Folkeparti, Kristian Thulesen Dahl, told Altinget.dk. He is in favour of shutting down the regions, arguing that the current structure makes it too complicated for citizens to see who is in charge of the hospitals.

 

"It is a paradox that many Danes feel that the road to Christiansborg is shorter than to their own region," Dahl said.

 

READ MORE: Kindergartens finding regional management not that bad after all

 

A gamble with the welfare state

Socialdemokraterne's health spokesperson, Flemming Møller Mortensen, warns against abolishing the regions.

 

"It is too sensitive to gamble with such an integral part of our welfare system,” he said.

 

In general, respondents that answered in favour of keeping the regions also voted for left-wing parties, while voters for the opposition wanted to get rid of the regions.

 

READ MORE: 'Forgotten towns’ searching for a new identity

 

Council reform detrimental to democracy

The 2007 structural reform has not been a hit on the council side, either. A recent report from a working group established by the economy minister, Margrethe Vestager (Radikale), concluded that the fewer and larger councils have delivered a blow to local democracy by making it more difficult for residents to communicate with their local politicians. 

 

"The council reform created an opportunity for the new large councils to set the local democratic agenda," the report states. "But conversely, the reform has removed the focus on dialogue with citizens and has created a greater distance between residents and their local representatives."

 

Vestager established the working group because the turnout in the 2009 local elections was the lowest it had been in 35 years, with a 66 percent turnout. The 2013 local and regional elections take place on November 19.