The Netherlands is divided into nearly 500 municipalities. That is where the operation of the municipality takes place. Every municipality has a city hall or municipal building. The city council is made up of people who were elected by the residents of the municipality.  The city council elections are held every 4 years.

The city council prepares its policies, which means that together they come up with goals and rules. Then the policies  are carried out by the city council members. For example, the municipality ensures that the trash is collected or that broken street lights are replaced. They decide how the trash can best be divided and processed and if the light bulbs in the street lights should be energy-saving ones. The council also decides about subsidies that will be given, so if you want to organize a cultural event then you know where you will need to be. And unlike in other countries, resulting to bribery is not needed!

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How does the city council reach a decision?

The size of a city council depends on the number of residents. Larger cities can have up to 45 city council members and smaller municipalities, like Vlieland, may only have 9 city council members. The city council will often meet in the council hall. That is where they will make their decisions.

The meeting

The mayor leads the meeting, but they are not the boss, but the city council is. Next to the mayor is where the members of the city council will sit. They will propose plans to the city council. Then the members of the city council will discuss the plans and will eventually make a decision: yes or no. Some plans are simply cancelled and will not proceed any further.

A day in the life of a mayor!

Mayor, that sounds good, doesn't it? Not many people realize what exactly a mayor does on a daily basis. Presentor Lisa from The Apple Core program followed a typical working day of Annemarie Jorristma, who was the mayor in Almere. They dash from one meeting to the next from early in the morning until late in the evening. 

"You are the mayor seven days in the week, 24 hours a day. And if something happens while you are on vacation, then you must come back."

Can you have an influence on decision making in your municipality?

Yes you can!  In various ways. Otherwise our democracy could not exist!  The municipality involves its residents in various ways in the decision-making process, for example with internet surveys, meetings, referendums, civilian initiatives or thru interactive decision making. But if you want to have an impact on municipal policy, you must first know what the municipality is busy with. That is why it is important to have information and openness.

These are the ways to exert pressure or to show what you think about something:

  • Participation - having a say in municipal policy
  • District, neighborhood and advice boards - All have involved citizens
  • Interactive decision making - Becoming a part of the planning process
  • Referendum - Voting for or against something
  • Civilian initiatives - putting a topic of discussion onto the agenda
  • Political market - Exchanging information


Municipalities do more than you think!

You might think that it is very normal that children in the Netherlands go to school, that the trash is collected, that there are places to park your car and that new neighborhoods are built. But municipalities have much more responsibilities.

For which topics can you approach your municipality?

  • Applying for a passport or an identity card
  • Applying for Dutch nationality
  • Reporting a birth
  • Arranging a marriage permit
  • For information and advice
  • Applying for welfare 

Municipalities also have other responsibilities.

In this video you can watch how the mayor of Haarlem talks about how the naturalization policy could be improved through placing it under the supervision of the municipalities.