Mayors from several cities and municipalities in Brussels and Flanders do not agree with the federal and Flemish governments’ approach to tackling the coronavirus crisis and have said they didn’t receive enough support.
One in four mayors indicated they did not know which level of government they should address with concerns or questions about the crisis, and many weren’t always informed about new measures on time, according to a survey by Radio 2 and the Centre for Local Politics of the University of Ghent.
“It is clear that for some mayors, the Belgian political model did not work during the coronavirus crisis. These results showed more power must go to local governments,” said Professor Herwig Reynaert (UGent), who worked on the study.
Of the Flemish and Brussels mayors questioned (90% of the total), less than half (45.3%) said they felt sufficiently supported by the federal government, and slightly more mayors (55.4%) said they received enough support from the Flemish government.
“The local government level was not recognised, while in this case, this would have been a very important level to take into account because a local authority is much closer to the people,” said Dorien Cuylaerts, mayor of the Antwerp municipality of Rijkevorsel, told Flemish public broadcaster VRT.
She added she was particularly annoyed by the fact that she could not prepare herself sufficiently for questions coming from citizens about new coronavirus measures, because she didn’t find out what they were until they were announced in the press conferences.
“I think it would have made a big difference if the mayors had received the information a few hours earlier. Then we could have anticipated and prepared,” she said.
“This crisis has, in any case, made it clear that municipalities and cities are close to the people and that they are able to fully support the people,” Professor Reynaert said, adding that these findings should be considered moving forward and that a local approach is needed for a successful exit from the crisis.
The Brussels government was previously criticised for its failure to include municipalities in decision making, with mayors saying they were not consulted about the extending of the curfew until 1 April.
The Brussels Times