Vantaa City Board gives its consent to proposed study to assess pros and cons of Helsinki merger
Many members critical of Helsinki "steamroller" approach
On Monday, the Vantaa City Board made a decision to give a recommendation to the City Council for assessing the positive and negative effects of merging the neighbouring cities of Helsinki and Vantaa.
The decision was made by a 9-8 vote.
The Vantaa City Board set strict conditions for Helsinki’s initiative for the two cities to collaborate with each other. In its statement, the City Board stressed that the proposed study is not to be a statutory feasibility study of the proposed municipal merger.
The members of the City Board were also concerned about the voluntary cooperation of the four cities in the Greater Helsinki area as well as about the cooperation between the 14 municipalities in the entire Helsinki region, if Helsinki and Vantaa launch merger studies of their own.
In the resolution made by the National Coalition Party and the Green League, the City Board proposes that the pros and cons of a two-step regional administrative model involving 4-14 municipalities should be looked into first in cooperation with Helsinki and other willing municipalities.
On the condition that these demands are accepted, Vantaa is willing to participate in the assessment of the positive and negative effects of the proposed merger of Helsinki and Vantaa.
On the Vantaa City Board, the Social Democrats, the Left Alliance, and the True Finns doggedly continued to oppose the proposed assessment until the bitter end, while the National Coalition Party and the Green League were in favour of studying the feasibility of a merger.
The decisive vote was cast by Maija Hurri of the Christian Democrats, who consented to vote in favour of the proposal together with the non-socialist parties.
”However, I support a more comprehensive regional cooperation and call for a similar survey to cover the entire metropolitan area”, Hurri declared.
Tapani Mäkinen (National Coalition Party), the chairman of the Vantaa City Board, was satisfied with the Board’s decision.
”We recorded in our strategy already last autumn that in March Vantaa was to take a stand on the cooperation in the Greater Helsinki area and on the investigation into a potential municipal merger. The next thing to do is to decide on the contents of the planned assessment. Even the schedules have not been agreed upon as yet”, Mäkinen noted.
The deputy chairman of the City Board, Jukka Hako (SDP), noted that the Social Democrats do not believe in the power of such mega-mergers of municipalities.
”We should have proceeded as we previously agreed upon in order to develop the regional cooperation”, Hako said.
”If we already in advance state that the proposed study is not to be a statutory feasibility study of the proposed municipal merger, what is the point of such an assessment?” Hako wondered.
Many members of the Vantaa City Board expressed criticism of the capital and Helsinki Mayor Jussi Pajunen, saying that they have tried to steamroller the proposed merger to be implemented as soon as possible - maybe already when the next council takes office.
”We were not really asked much whether or not we would like to accept the proposal”, said Sirpa Pajunen (Green League).
Pajunen stressed on Monday that Helsinki has put forward a sincere question of whether Vantaa is willing to openly participate in the investigation.
”The idea is to start with a clean slate to assess the arguments for and against the proposed merger. Helsinki’s proposal is not a statutory feasibility study which would initiate negotiations of the joining of the two cities", Pajunen pointed out.
The two other neighbouring cities of Espoo and Kauniainen have shown considerably more reluctance towards Helsinki's plans for a larger metropolitan whole.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Helsinki Mayor: Helsinki metropolis would provide Vantaa citizens with better services (24.3.2009)
Helsinki to propose study on possible municipal merger in capital region (22.1.2009)
Minister of Housing believes in merger of Helsinki and Vantaa (19.9.2008)