Why does Copenhagen need seven mayors? Understanding the City Council

A quick look at how Copenhagen’s government functions

On November 19, the more than 500,000 inhabitants of Copenhagen have the chance to vote for the candidates they think should govern the capital for the next four years. If this is your first time voting, or if you are just not quite sure who makes the decisions in Copenhagen, this overview will take you behind the doors of City Hall.

City Council represents residents
In Copenhagen the local government is called Københavns Borgerrepræsentation and is the city’s supreme political authority. The Copenhagen Post refers to the board as the City Council. It has 55 members, representing the full breadth of the political spectrum, who are all elected for a term of four years. Only the mayors of the various departments are full-time politicians – the majority of the representatives have ordinary jobs on the side.

The lord mayor is the real mayor
Copenhagen has seven mayors, but the Lord Mayor (Overborgmester) is the chairman of the City Council and sets the agenda for the meetings. Frank Jensen (Socialdemokraterne) is the current Lord Mayor and took office in 2010 after the last local election. Copenhagen has had a Socialdemokraterne (S) mayor since the position was created in 1938, and the party currently controls the most seats in the City Council.

Committees concentrate on their specific areas
The six other deputy mayors are each the heads of different political committees. The local government of Copenhagen is divided into a Finance Committee and six other standing committees that are responsible for the day-to-day administration of each of their respective fields. The City Council sets up the frameworks of the seven committees’ tasks. This type of government is supposed to ensure that the committees can make the final decisions within their areas without having to submit all of their proposals to the whole City Council.

The lord mayor is also the head of the Finance Committee, the most important of the seven committees. Six members of the City Council and the six deputy mayors of the different committees join him at the roundtable. They are in charge of the city’s budget and the overall co-ordination of the city’s affairs.

How does it work?
The six other committees are the Technical and Environmental Committee (Teknik- og Miljøudvalget), the Culture and Leisure Committee (Kultur- og Fritidsudvalget), the Children and Youth Committee (Børne- og Ungeudvalget), the Health and Care Committee (Sundheds- og omsorgsudvalget), the Social Services Committee (Socialudvalget), and the Employment and Integration Committee (Beskæftigelses- og Integrationsudvalget).

The current six deputy mayors of these committees are respectively: Ayfer Baykal (Socialistisk Folkeparti), Pia Allerslev (Venstre), Jesper Christensen (S), Ninna Thomsen (SF), Mikkel Warming (Enhedslisten) and Anna Mee Allerslev (Radikale).

With the exception of Warming, all the other politicians currently in mayoral positions are running for re-election to the City Council, but returning to their positions is no guarantee.

All six deputy mayor positions and the lord mayor’s position will be decided by the November 19 elections, although not directly by voters. The different political parties are granted seats on the City Council and in the different committees according to the ratio of both party and personal votes received.

Different parties have different formulas for determining who gets the mayoral appointments.

For all the news and background you need to make an informed choice on November 19 you can visit the Local Elections 13 section of our website