The province has introduced the challenge law, or the right to challenge. Residents can take over executive work from the province if they feel they can do it better, better, cheaper or differently. It ‘challenges’ the government. Initiatives that have been approved can actually be implemented.
Residents make different demands on politics and governance than before, says King’s commissioner Andris Hiedema. “They have become more assertive and want to be more involved in their own living environments. I would like to use that involvement and skills more often for all kinds of tasks that we face as a society. “
Origin of right to challenge
The right to challenge was introduced in the UK in 2012 to increase the influence of residents on local government. In 2015 the right of challenge was transferred to the Netherlands; Municipalities included this in the ‘Social Support Act’ (WMO). It allows residents to perform government functions on their own. Most of the examples you see in the physical or social sphere.
Now initiatives are also being taken in Overijssel. For example, residents of Omerkanal settlement have taken over management of ledges and ditches. They have developed a method to limit greenhouse gas emissions, reuse sorted waste and clippings, and improve the habitat of birds and insects. Municipalities such as Vierden and Born are also actively involved in the right to challenge. Bourne has a walk-in house managed by Bourne Self-Direction Team. The Cooperatie Notter-Zuna is responsible for landscape maintenance at Wierden.
The right to challenge is still relatively new to the provinces. The province of Friesland already has an initiative in which farmers, nature organizations and land owners have successfully taken over the development of a thousand hectares of nature with the province as a partner. And three times the owner is responsible for the operation of one of the many bridges in the province.
In Overijssel, the right to challenge was approved by the provincial council earlier this year. “I’m very happy with it,” Heidema says. “The residents can help us in all kinds of areas. Think about landscape and nature management, public transport in rural areas, landscaping along provincial roads, but also the things we do in the fields of culture and heritage. I see the right to challenge as one of the possibilities to increase the participation of residents in the work of the province.
Anyone who wants to challenge the province must come up with a well-founded proposal. “Of course there are rules of the game.” Hydema outlines the process. “When we are challenged, we convene a group of experts as soon as possible. For example, someone with knowledge of our procurement policy, a financial expert, and an attorney. Any independent from outside the province. is involved for the decision. The provincial executive – the executive board of the province – then makes the decision. If the motion does not match the right to challenge, we will see if we can deal with the proposal differently.”
Hydema understands that residents are excited about the right to challenge, but they also wonder ‘how do I do this right?’ “We would like to discuss it. I would say don’t be shy and challenge us!”
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