ALDE Party Congress 2023 – the local government cut

In addition to all the MEPs, Prime Ministers and Grandees there were also quite a few local Councillors like me in attendance.

The Committee of Regions continued to focus on Local Government issues by mounting a couple of specific interest Fringe sessions.

One regular event is entitled the Liberal Mayors Summit, and despite the poor attendance of Mayors and Group Leaders from the UK ,even when we were in the EU, I’ve fortunately managed to sneak in on a couple of occasions. There were about 20 attending this year, from metropolitan areas across the EU, with representation from well-known cities like Warsaw, Stockholm, St Omer, Bucharest, Split, Budapest, Vienna and smaller less well-known ones from across the EU states. It was good to realise that the Liberal influence is present in so many local authority areas.

The main guest was the very popular Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice President of the European Commission who had delivered a speech about plans to regulate IA.

The agenda included issues about SMEs, and combatting gender-based violence but the item which generated most contributions and took up the majority of time was about The European Year of Skills. Every attendee around the table had prepared a contribution on this subject and I found there was such resonance with issues our own towns and cities are experiencing, I thought it would be of interest to our colleagues here in the UK.

As the discussion went round the table, we heard from every representative about problems that their authority faced in planning for the future. These were an ageing population, a lack of well qualified staff and skilled personnel to fill vacancies, while experiencing an incoming surfeit of unskilled migrants. An interesting example was given of an authority above the Arctic Circle in the North of Finland, which had recognised that it needed to bring in new people if its business and activities were to thrive.

The subsequent discussion centred around the need for upskilling and training opportunities to address the skill gaps, with requests to the EU for specific further investment funds.

The second Councillors session was led by D66 member Michiel Rijsberman, from the Provincial Executive of the Flevoland District to the East & North of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

This province has been formed and developed in stages since the late 1930s by extensive land reclamation and enclosure of parts of the Zuiderzee. Formed from marshy terrain, a programme spanning eighty years has seen the development of towns, transport, agricultural land, cultural features, recreational land, businesses and the merger of former municipal activities. Michiel spoke about the ups and downs of work they had undertaken to build up this new and smallest province of the Netherlands, and of the assistance EU funds made. It now has a population of some 400,000 and is divided into 6 smaller municipal areas.

The audience were clearly interested in the story of the creation of a new municipality as several commented about their own experiences of being merged and reshaped. I was interested to ask questions about EU structural funds and matched contributions from local concerns and business.

* Doreen Huddart is a Liberal Democrat councillor in Newcastle upon Tyne, and a member of the Party's Federal International Relations Committee.

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This entry was posted in Europe / International, Local government and News.

One Comment

  • Doreen You are so well informed on this from experience. Just imagine the impetus and resources that we could give to levelling up if we were in the EU.

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