Residents of four East Iceland localities will vote later this month on whether or not to consolidate under a single municipal government. If the localities do join together, each would retain a three-member “home council,” an arrangement unprecedented in Iceland. RÚV reported first.
On October 26, residents of Borgarfjarðarhreppur, Djúpavogshreppur, Fjótsdalshreppur, and Seyðisfjörður vote on the proposal to merge their municipalities under a single government. If the proposal is accepted, the localities would share a single council of 11 representatives, while each of the four localities would retain a council of three members with more localised authority.
The idea of home councils was put forth as a response to the criticism that smaller communities would lose influence through consolidation. The councils’ goal is to ensure that local residents still have an impact on their local services. The concept is built on experimental provisions on governance in 2011 legislation concerning local government. If the four localities do join together, it will be the first time the provision is applied.
Home councils oversee land use
Two members of each home council would be elected directly by the locality’s residents, while the third would have a seat on the municipal council. The representatives would have equal authority. While the municipal government would decide on general zoning plans, detailed land-use plans would be under the jurisdiction of the home councils. While the general environmental policy would be determined by the municipal council, specific environmental projects within a locality’s area would be in the hands of its home council. Home councils would therefore have a big influence on environmental protection as well as development within their locality.
Fewer representatives with more authority
The four East Iceland localities currently have a total of 113 representatives on their local councils. With the merging of the four localities, this number would be lowered to 42.