Around 900 Flemish councillors gave up job since 2018

Around 900 Flemish councillors gave up job since 2018

Since the 2018 local elections in Belgium, some 563 local councillors in Flanders did not take up their mandate and a further 331 resigned, according to Flemish newspaper De Standaard.

Out of a total of 7,359 municipal councillors elected in 2018, 894 are now no longer serving in the position, which amounts to around 12% of all councillors in the region. Those retiring cite burn-out, a lack of support, and not being able to make any impact on local policymaking.

Councillors interviewed by the newspaper reported that many resigned out of frustration because they were not able to make enough impact on local constituencies. Groen (Green) councillor Johnny Ceyseesn, after spending nearly nine years in the position, quit in 2021 due to the pressures of the position.

“It is frustrating to spend hours on a dossier in your spare time, only to see it swept off the table after five minutes in the municipal council,” he told De Standaard. “In the end, I gave up. It all has to make sense.”

Belgian councillors receive different salaries based on their region, area, and commune. Monthly wages range between €2,000 and €8,000 per month. However, most resignations relate not to pay, but rather to workload.

According to politician Brecht Warnez, “remuneration is hardly ever given as a reason.” The three reasons most commonly cited are having too little time, too little local impact, or too little support. Local councillors sometimes have to juggle the job with other employment.

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Former Christiandemocrat CD&V councillor Melissa Verfaillie told De Standaard that she quit the job after 12 years due to a lack of support and tightened local budgets. “Once a bill is tabled in the municipal council, you have little say about it. You cannot shape policy, even though you have been elected and people expect that of you.”

Warnez notes that the rate of resignation of councillors was, indeed, alarming. He is now proposing offering two to four days of “political leave” per month to allow councillors to work on drafting their own initiatives as well as offering greater resources for long-term planning.

As noted by Warnez, similar tools exist in the Netherlands where ordinary councillors can access financial reports about projects through a digital platform.

This would help close the gap between councillors in the majority and the opposition, and allow opposition voices to better make proposals and oppose plans. These tools, it is hoped, will help reduce the number of resignations from local governments.

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